or many centuries the Himalayan mountain country of Tibet has borne mute testimony to a daily ritual.  Several times a day, at the appointed hour, a curious barrel-shaped cylinder, fashioned of precious metal or wood and inscribed with prayers intended for Buddha, is rotated by means of a simple hand crank.  The monks who conduct this ritual believe that each turn of the wheel is the equivalent of all the prayers of the order recited in succession.  Accordingly, in the course of 2000 years, gears, waterpower, and even electric motors have been added to the device in order to maximize its devotional efficiency.

Side-stepping such obvious religious parallels as the reciting of 'Hail Marys' or the counting of Rosary beads, the Hindu prayer wheel is a paradigm of man's tendency to externalize values.  For if the efficacy of prayer resides in the insensible symbols that document it, what purpose does the recitation serve?  If the potency of a communication to a deity is a function of its repetition, of what value are the pious supplicants who turn the crank?

The invention of the prayer wheel has contributed little to technology.  It does, however, bring to mind a modern day counterpartnamely, the spinning disc used to store and retrieve information intended not for deities but for the advancement of human knowledge.  With today's digital computers, more information has been processed in the last decade than was printed throughout all previous history.  Only mechanical contrivances can deal with intelligence of this magnitude; so we now have computers teaching computers!  As you read this, nanotechnologists are working feverishly to develop an electro-mechanical brain with the ability to "think", convinced that it is the best hope for the survival of civilization.  Some actually believe it's only a matter of time before computers will acquire emotional sensibility!

Having abandoned the quest for meaning, mankind is rushing headlong toward a future in which machines will make the critical decisions that affect human life.  Awed by their modern Leviathan, people seem only capable of getting in the way.  Indeed, the human individual is the most inefficient and unreliable component in the system.  In the name of progress, perhaps he should—as a gesture of his natural compassion—simply retire from the scene and allow the cybernauts free reign.  Scientists will of course deny that this is their intention; but look where the last two decades of "technological progress" has taken them—in vitro conception, genetic engineering, human cloning, bionic body parts, computer chip implants, cryonic entombment.  It is a strange new prayer wheel, indeed, this digital brain trust!  But is a hi-tech paradise populated with mechanical surrogates fit to become the new Garden of Eden?  Does it embody the kind of world we want as a legacy for our children?   If not, how do we fix what's wrong with the concept?

There is a prevailing attitude in our society that technology will one day solve all problems.  The idea is a corruption of Darwin/Marxist theories with a dose of altruism thrown in that smacks more of Disney than reality.  It is predicated on the notion that we in the Western World have evolved a more "cerebral" culture than the under-developed nations where life is still largely a material struggle for survival, and that a "cybernetically enhanced" man is the logical next step in this evolutionary process.   In a 2004 Philadelphia Inquirer commentary, John Timpane muses on the disturbing prospects of current research aimed at "custom designing" consciousness:

The 1990s, dubbed "The Decade of the Brain" by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, was a true explosion of intellectual vigor and research breakthroughs. ...Yet at the end of that wonderful decade, the grand quarry—consciousness itself—had eluded us.  We still do not know how you get from a firing cell to a subjective experience.  It will take us a while to build that bridge.  (What a lovely paradox: that something so near to us, so obvious a fact, so familiar and intimate—should also be so elusive.  Well did the Greeks assign an ancient word for butterfly—psyche—to the soul or mind.  Beautiful, super-real, hard to catch.)  But the net is poised.  Someday, we may be able to head off diseases and disorders of the brain ranging from depression to Alzheimer's.  We may be able to change and improve not only my mood, but also my ability to learn, understand, and remember; perhaps my memory(ies).  And if you can do all that to me, where or what is the "I"?  A future generation will have to deal with this notion—a designer consciousness. ...All this new neurobiology can make people feel as if they are being turned into machines or hunks of baloney.  That the romance of the individual life—all that delicious richness, the things that paint the one-of-a-kind portrait of myself and yourself—is gone.  That the soul is no more.1

A number of respected technological pioneers, including Ray Kurzweil and Hans Moravec, have predicted the coming of "The Singularity", a computational intelligence that will, in the next two or three decades, not only match but swiftly surpass human intelligence.  At that point, they say, civilization will be radically transformed in ways that our puny minds cannot possibly imagine.

The truth of the matter is that there is nothing "artificial" about consciousness.  Digital intelligence does not have the capacity to replace man's intellect or memory, any more than the "gift" of technology can pacify the backward nations, or than genome building blocks can create a superior species of Homo sapiens.  Without consciousness there can be no experience of reality, and "insensible knowledge" is a meaningless absurdity.  Even if the technicians succeed in producing a mechanical system with the ability to "learn" as well as process information, including sufficient cognitive behavior to simulate "self-awareness", it will not be a conscious entity.  By the same token, microchip attachments and memory data recorded from living brains will never extend man's consciousness beyond his finite lifetime or grant him immortality.  However well intentioned and ingenious such efforts may be, the very notion that technology will eventually "upgrade" the biology, intelligence and conduct of man has already diminished the value of human life.

Although the technocrats argue that the miracles of modern technology are freeing mankind for "greater enrichment from higher pursuits,"  I have seen no evidence to support this view.  To the contrary, I believe a case could be made that technology has replaced religion as the new opiate of the masses.  The advancements of technology have raised our standard of living with a host of disposable conveniences that have all but eliminated the craftsmanship that was once a hallmark of human creativity, forcing our dependence on elusive specialists to operate or maintain them.  Such "conveniences" even threaten to impugn the value of an education: a recent NEWSWEEK cover story reported that fully three-quarters of America's high-school students admit to cheating on exams, many using hand-held electronic devices to retrieve test data; so that a diploma may soon be worth no more than the paper it is printed on.  Technology has landed man on the moon, launched satellites to Mars and Jupiter, and produced weapons of unprecedented destructive power at the cost of billions of our tax dollars and two manned space-shuttle disasters.  Most alarming, it has fostered a self-serving goal for human progress based on a doctrine that says: "If it's technologically feasible, we've got to do it".

One eminent British astronomer notes that "Science is advancing in a far more unpredictable and potentially dangerous pattern than ever before."2  He calculates the odds of an apocalyptic disaster striking earth at about 50 percent, up from 20 percent a century ago—not because of asteroid collisions or other natural calamities but primarily due to man-made threats of nuclear terrorism, deadly engineered viruses, rogue machines, and genetic engineering designed to alter human character.  No less a scientist than Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, "Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.It seems to me that before we are reduced to mere road-kill under this technological wheel, we need to pause for a critical assessment of where we are heading—and why.

It can be said without exaggeration that throughout all of history, the single, most significant shortcoming of mankind has been his failure to recognize the value of individual freedom.  Over the course of 6000 years human beings have been subject to the rule of tribal chieftains, patriarchal monarchs, feudal warlords, divine right sovereigns, autocratic dictators, theocratic statehoods, and military juntas, man's experience with representative democracy having been limited to little more than two centuries.  In the absence of a plausible belief system that would, once and for all, release the individual from bondage to external authority and the need to appease an anthropomorphic "Being", man is by and large still ignorant of the fact that he alone is responsible for his actions and for his relationships with others.  As a consequence, arrogance and superstition continue to be the driving forces in the conduct of global affairs—a fatalistic agenda that, fueled by runaway technology and international arms dealing, has pushed our civilized world to the brink of total annihilation.

If we are to set a new course for mankind, it must encompass an understanding of the human position—especially with regard to existential Freedom—and it must be based upon philosophical insight that is both credible and vital to the individual.  Toward this objective, I offer the following set of axiomatic principles that conceivably could become the watershed for a value-based philosophy of Essence.  These concepts are drawn from eclectic sources that express what I believe to be some of the most profound insights of philosophers and visionaries throughout the ages.  As a coherent ontology, they invite a valuistic conception of reality from which may spring a credo worthy of our troubled new millennium.

First, and foremost . . .

 

    1.  Existence is the experience of being in time and space.

To look at the world as the philosopher does, you must be prepared to tackle some fundamental questions about the nature of reality, the most difficult of which can be expressed in just two words: what is?  This is the essential question.  Once the basis for a branch of philosophy known as Metaphysics, the quest for a quintessential element—the Kantian "thing-in-itself"—has lately fallen under the domain of Quantum Physics.  While it is unlikely that you would find a metaphysicist today to help you in this quest, answers have not been exactly forthcoming from the scientists, either.

The philosopher's search for Essence can't be satisfied by the discovery of an ultimate particle or energy wave source in the objective world.  Since metaphysical truth must hold for "all possible worlds", the search is necessarily subjective in approach; it involves the positing of a plausible theory expounding the universal nature or whatness of existing things, and coming up with valid arguments to support it.  The philosophical challenge is made all the more daunting by the apparent dyadic nature of the natural world—a paradox that science is not obliged to explain.  Because the human "mind" is an elusive entity that defies quantification, it is inimical to science and considered an unavoidable artifact in objective research.  Mind vs. matter is, nonetheless, an ontological schism that cuts across every observation of physical phenomena, every set of moral principles, every assessment of man's place in the universe.  Trying to understand reality by searching only for objective information is the equivalent of one hand clapping.  The philosopher strives to get beyond empirical "otherness" for an understanding of reality itself.  For Western philosophers prior to the twentieth century, this was seen as a goal that could only be achieved by reducing reality to a monism; that is, by rejecting either the subjective idealism of Plato or the objective materialism of Science.

As if to rid the world of subjective reality, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel established the school of dialectical materialism in the mid-1800s.  Their atheistic platform was adopted as the ontological basis for the Existentialist movement in the following century and, under the guise of Naturalism and Logical Positivism, has profoundly influenced our view of physical reality ever since.  Here is how Dagobert Runes summarized the basic principles of dialectical materialism:

Ontologically, its materialism means that matter, nature, the observable world is taken 'without reservations' as real in its own right, neither deriving its reality from any supernatural or transcendental source, nor dependent for its existence on the mind of man.  It is considered scientifically evident that matter is prior to mind both temporally and logically in the sense that mind never appears except as an outgrowth of matter, and must be explained accordingly.  Space and time are viewed as forms of the existence of matter.3

With this "intellectual manifesto" as their foundation, philosophers at the turn of the century began to shackle subjectivity to man's materialistic zeitgeist.  After thousands of years of wrangling over mind and matter, they finally seemed to be nearing a solution to the duality problem.  While nuclear physicists found themselves facing some mind/matter issues of their own, a handful of philosophers were formulating the major premises of an alternative reality concept that was to be called "Existentialism".  Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel and Martin Heidegger, in particular, independently established philosophical grounds for an "experience-based" cosmology that would consolidate mind and matter as the two existential modalities of a single Being.

Science and philosophy have always operated on the assumption that Being is the essence of reality and that the properties and relations of existing things are the key to this essence.  The existentialists reasoned that, since consciousness has no basis in substantive reality other than contributing to its outcome [facticity], the anomalous split between mind and matter could be skirted simply by defining all reality as being and the essence of a person or thing, what it be-comes in the physical world [Heidegger's Dasein].  They would focus on the qualitative properties of Being as experienced, leaving the so-called physical properties—size, weight, mass, density, etc.—as grist for the mill of scientific research.  (These are mainly empirical data used to quantify a phenomenon and communicate exactly what is observed to others within a universally verifiable scheme of things.)

It apparently did not occur to the existentialists that, while the experience of a phenomenon enables us to identify its type or species, it provides no direct knowledge of its essence or beingness.  Cognizant awareness is the cumulative effect of varying intensities of nerve energy generated by sense receptors throughout the body and transmitted to the brain, which then interprets this information as conscious experience.  Obviously, some extracorporeal stimulus is responsible for initiating a particular experience.  But the physical apparatus by which we sense everyday experience is proprioceptive, which means that what we are actually sensing are the responses of our own cerebro-nervous system.

Let me bring this idea down to earth with an ordinary garden variety illustration. ...

There is a rose growing in our garden.  I say that the rose "is", meaning that it exists and has being; but do I actually know this for a fact?  I could be wrong about the species, of course, having only a smattering of botanical knowledge.  But a rose by any other name is still a rose to me, and this particular flower happens to exhibit a set of characteristics that matches the description of every other rose in my memory.  I also judge the object of my perception to be a "physical reality" because I can support my visual impression of it with related sensory data.  But of what are such data composed?

Cupping the delicate blossom in my hand, I study the flower's crimson petals; but the color, shape and texture that I am experiencing are not attributes of the rose itself but of my visual and tactile sensory faculties.  The familiar sweet fragrance I sense in its presence is, in actuality, a chemical alteration between my olfactory nerve endings that recalls past encounters with roses from my memory.  I stoop to pluck the flower but am stopped by the prickly thorns of its stem; the pain I feel—a result of the traumatized condition of the nerves in my fingertips when the skin is pierced—is a further reminder that, except for the presumed being of this living plant before me, all of its identifiable attributes are actually properties of my organic sensibility.  Thus, the flower whose existence I so confidently and without hesitation reported a moment ago on analysis turns out to be the mere spectre of a rose—a concoction of my own proprietary awareness.  I do not even know for a certainty that what I've called a rose has a being of its own that is distinct from my cognizance of it!

Now I may try to corroborate the existence of the rose by inviting my wife to the garden and asking her to confirm it.  But what she perceives will be her own set of sensory data relative to what is, in effect, another experience.  Since I have no direct access to her sense impressions or values, we can only compare our observations verbally, in a very general way.  Likewise, the form of the rose and its physical position among the other plants in the garden may be described, sketched or photographed to provide additional evidence of its existence.  But these abstract "proofs" do not validate its "being" any more than self-awareness validates my own.  Physical things like houses and stones—even living trees and flowers—are dimensional phenomena that relate to space and time in an objective world, not to being as such.  Their supposed being is a consequence of their being experienced.  And the tools we employ to confirm their existence will always produce data consistent with our experience because that is what they were designed to do.

Existentialism also holds that the being of existence is primary to its essence, a throwback to mechanistic philosophies that rejected valuism as a general concept, and individual human values in particular.  The idea that "Existence precedes Essence" figures prominently in the atheistic theories of Jean-Paul Sartre, who saw it as the reason that man is "condemned to freedom" in a deterministic universe without meaning.  As a free agent, man is "thrown into existence" without the predetermined nature of other animals and is forced to "create his own being" through the exercise of free choice—a project that is completed by his demise.  Popularized in plays and novels by the leading twentieth century existentialist and his successors, this pessimistic world-view fostered a collective society that would come to regard human freedom as a "dreadful burden" and the individual's essence as a posthumous object for others.

Actually, the existentialists have been addressing only the phenomenal half of the mind/matter dilemma, and the "being" they have defined is "evolutionary in Nature" rather than a metaphysical absolute.  As for the individual whose mind it is that experiences being, it is their contention that he or she is no more than "an accident of chance".  Considering the fact that everything knowable about the universe is experiential, it is ludicrous to suggest (as Sartre did) that man is "unnecessary" inasmuch as "...the world exists just as well without him."  The primary attribute of the material world—its apparent being apart from cognizant awareness—is itself an intellectual phenomenon.  That makes man a sine qua non for the existence of differentiated reality.  We can only speculate as to the nature of an objective world without sensible awareness, except that it would be meaningless.

The bottom line is that we can know only what we can experience.  Even facts and descriptions that come to us second-hand—from textbooks and lectures, for example—originate as sensory values in someone's experience and are filed away in our memory bank as if they were directly experienced.  In truth, nothing can be said to exist that is not capable of being experienced.  This implies that not only our image of the world but the nature of reality itself may be experiential, in which case the brain functions as an effectual mechanism to create the experience, rather than simply reacting (affectively) to pre-existing external stimuli.  Despite existentialist views to the contrary, a critical understanding of experience leads to the conclusion that the essence of reality is implicit in its values rather than its physical "beingness", and that value sensibility must therefore precede material existence.

All of which begs the question: What is the essence of reality, and how does it prompt us to conjure up the multiform images of things that we call existence?  Furthermore, if it is true that the experience of our world is totally dependent on sensibility, what proof do we have that our experience of existence represents reality as it actually is?  Or, for that matter, how do we know that the physical world exists at all?  In an attempt to search for answers, empirical evidence is being collected and analyzed daily.  But as advanced technology and more sophisticated instruments push the boundaries of man's observable universe ever further beyond the finite range of his senses and into the micro/macro realms of the cosmos, the evidence gets fuzzy, and his long-trusted laws of physics become less and less reliable.  It is a most significant fact, I think—and perhaps even a fundamental law of Nature—that man's ability to validate reality is limited to the realm of finite perception.  Nobel winning theoretical physicist Max Planck had nailed the problem over a century before when he said: "Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery in nature.  And it is because in the last analysis we ourselves are part of the mystery we try to solve."

Soviet-born cybernetics engineer Valentin Turchin is one of several contemporary physicists who have openly admitted to the challenge that now confronts the scientific investigator.  These comments, appearing in an early essay Dr. Turchin wrote for the web site of his Principia Cybernetica Project, provide some historical perspective on science's changing world view.

The world of the nineteenth century was, broadly, as follows.  Very small particles of matter move about in virtually empty three-dimensional space.  These particles act on one another with forces which are uniquely determined by their positioning and velocities. The forces of interaction, in their turn, uniquely determine, in accordance with Newton's laws, the subsequent movement of particles.  Thus each subsequent state of the world is determined, in a unique way, by its preceding state. ...In such a world there was no room for freedom: it was illusory.  Humans, themselves merely aggregates of particles, had as much freedom as wound-up watch mechanisms.

In the twentieth century the scientific worldview has undergone a radical change. ...We now know that the notion that the world is ''really'' space in which small particles move along definite trajectories is illusory: it is contradicted by experimental facts.  We also know that determinism, i.e., the notion that in the last analysis all events in the world must have specific causes, is illusory too.  On the contrary, freedom, which was banned from the science of the nineteenth century as an illusion, became a part, if not the essence, of reality.4

As the cyber-technicians toy with an objective world that has been "liberated" from Newton's laws, nuclear physicists and cosmologists are beginning to realize that the properties of time and space are contingent upon the mode of experience itself.  Faced with paradoxes such as Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, basic incompatibilities between quantum theory and relativity, and the absence of empirical validation for exotic new "unification" theories, they now concede that the universal dimensions by which objective entities have historically been measured and categorized no longer constitute legitimate ground for an external reality.  This lends credence to the view that reality is essentially subjective, that the limits and properties of the physical world are defined by the limits and properties of perceptual awareness; which is to say, existence is the content of awareness.  Thus, even within the scientific community, there is a small but growing consensus that the world begins and ends as cognizant experience.  Or, as Tolstoy once observed, "There is no reality except for our experience of it".

How can this be so?

Recently, astrophysicist John Archibald Wheeler, a former colleague of Albert Einstein who is credited with naming cosmology's black hole, expressed the idea that "...what we say about the universe as a whole depends on the means we use to observe it, [that] in the act of observing we bring into being something of what we see.  Laws of physics relate to man, the observer, more closely than anyone has thought before.  The universe is not 'out there', somewhere, independent of us."   Wheeler concludes: "Simply put: without an observer, there are no laws of physics."5

Stanford University physicist Andrei Linde takes Wheeler's idea to the next level, maintaining that the universe and the observer must exist as a pair.  "You can say that the universe is there only when there is an observer who can say, Yes, I see the universe there," he says; "The moment you say that the universe exists without any observers, I cannot make any sense out of that.  I cannot imagine a consistent theory of everything that ignores consciousness.  It's not enough for the information to be stored somewhere, completely inaccessible to anybody.  It's necessary for somebody to look at it.  In the absence of observers, our universe is dead."5 [Italics mine]

In other words, the universe is the way it is because we experience itThe Primary Essence is not a property of the physical world but a creative wellspring that is more akin to the act of experiencing than to the externalities perceived.  Indeed, the shocking truth about reality may be that there is no "out there", that everything we experience as occurring in time and space is actually happening within us, its outward manifestation being a product of our neurological sensibilities and a "universal pattern" that is innate to cognizant awareness.

Donald Hoffman, a cognitive scientist at the University of California and author of Visual Intelligence, has declared his belief in a conscious reality: "I believe that consciousness and its contents are all that exists.  Space-time, matter and fields never were the fundamental denizens of the universe, but have always been, from the beginning, among the humbler contents of consciousness, dependent on it for their very being.  The world of our daily experience—the world of tables, chairs, stars and people, with their attendant shapes, smells, feels and sounds—is a species-specific user interface to a realm far more complex, a realm whose essential character is conscious. ...If this be right, if consciousness is fundamental, then we should not be surprised that, despite centuries of effort by the most brilliant minds, there is as yet no physical theory of consciousness, no theory that explains how mindless matter and energy or fields could be, or cause, conscious experience."7  Now the concept of a subjective reality has always been fraught with controversy.  It flies in the face of empirical objectivists for whom it has been remarked that "statistics" may be the closest thing to ultimate reality*, and it totally refutes Sartre's hypothesis that existence precedes essence.  Further, to embrace the premise is to change the fundamental search for cosmic truth from: What is the nature of the universe? to: What is the essence of experience?  I submit that only a revival of Essentialism, long abandoned because of its solipsistic implications, can provide mankind with a proper philosophical foundation from which to direct human energy.  Only then will we have the insight to know what is to be gained by relentlessly pushing technology to its limits, as opposed to some other alternative.

Just what is Essentialism?

The physical world is not only diverse and differentiated, but its differentiation in many respects constitutes a polarized system.  We observe this polarity in the charged protons and electrons in the micro-world of nuclear physics, and we see it in the macro-world of Nature where the seasons come and go, the tides rise and fall, electro-magnetic particles are attracted and repulsed, biological processes are anabolic and catabolic, and living organisms are born and then die.  The values we experience are virtually a study in contrasts—a balance of pleasure and pain, goodness and evil, beauty and ugliness, desire and repugnance, harmony and dissonance, and so on.  Even the cultural advances of civilized societies are viewed as man's attempts to make order out of chaos.  Indeed, the "law of contradictions" is so prevalent that one can almost regard experience as "contrariety personified".  The idea of a Primary Source turns this transitional pluralistic world of experience upside down.  In philosophy, whether it is identified as the Supreme Being, God, or The One, the primary source is traditionally alleged to be unified, undifferentiated, and unalterable.  If we assume this to be true, then it follows that the "first principle"—Primary Reality— is the opposite of polarized multiplicity.  In other words, Essence can be defined as that state or mode of reality in which there is no opposition—where "plus equals minus" and contrariety disappears.  (This definition will be given further elaboration in the Creation hypothesis of section six.)  I call this primary state Essence and will treat it in this thesis as the "non-contradictory first principle."

The word "essence", from the Latin esse [to be], is commonly used to reference the significance or core meaning of a proposition, as well as the value or substantive nature of a thing.  Essence is not being, which is subtended by dimensional nothingness, nor is it conscious awareness, which presupposes an objective referent; rather, it is the absolute unity which encompasses all being and sensibility as the antithesis of existential nothingness.  The descriptive form "essential" connotes what is indispensable in any context.  Both terms have had a long and convoluted past in the history of philosophical dialogue.  Much of the difficulty might have been avoided had philosophers fully understood the experiential component of the reality they were attempting to define.  In light of recent findings by Professor Wheeler and other cosmologists, philosophers are no longer pariahs for denouncing as "problematic" any theory of reality that ignores proprietary sensibility or that posits Being as the primary cause.

I decided to call this value-based philosophy "Essentialism" back in the mid-1960s, a decade at least before the term began to identify a slew of polemical movements that have little if anything to do with metaphysical Essence and, in fact, are more derivative of existentialist thinking.  Most of the definitions that have since found their way into college outline books and the Internet are slanted toward the idea that some things have essences which, if removed, would make their existence impossible.  Curiously, Runes' comprehensive Dictionary of Philosophy still does not include Essentialism, but it does provide this "scholastic definition" for Essence: "The essence of a thing is its nature considered independently of its existence.  Also, non-existent things and those which cannot exist at all have a proper essence. ...It is doubtful whether we can give of any thing a truly essential definition with the one exception: man is a rational animal."3

In its broadest sense, Essentialism is any philosophy that acknowledges the primacy of Essence.  Many view it as an idealistic belief system with roots that are traceable to the objective idealism of the early Greeks.  Others, myself included, see it as an inevitable reaction to scientific materialism which in its methodological denial of subjective reality has virtually rejected the possibility of a Primary Essence.  To the scientist every thing is an "other" whose attributes and interrelational dynamics are defined and measured in terms of laws constructed by the human intellect—a not other.  But because Essentialism is a conceptual worldview that is not dependent on objective facts and measurements, it is not limited to the scientific way of looking at things.  As the Eastern mystics have known for many centuries, reality is more than what the rational mind can formulate differentially from its empirical observations of "otherness".  Essentialism puts this wisdom into an ontological synthesis that is approachable (arguably for the first time) by the Western mind.  The Essentialist's perspective is not trapped by self/other dualism; it reaches beyond otherness for the Value of undivided Essence—the ineffable Oneness of Eastern Philosophy.

Despite the metaphysical basis for the term, academicians in science, art, heuristics, psychology, and gender-based sociological studies have all seen fit to advance their disparate and sundry causes under the banner of Essentialism.  Possibly the clearest definition for this philosophy was offered by gay/lesbian rights advocate Diana Fuss, who wrote: "Essentialism is most commonly understood as a belief in the real, true essence of things, the invariable and fixed properties which define the 'whatness' of a given entity." [Essentially Speaking, 1989]   Compare that definition with the tenets of dialectical materialism above, and you will see why Essentialism stands diametrically opposed to materialism.

Although the Greek philosophers believed that the true nature of the universe was perfect, they were astute enough to attribute the observed imperfections to man's limited perception.  For Plato, this meant that there had to be two different realities: the "essential" and the "perceived".   Plato's dialectical protιgι Aristotle [384-322 B.C.] applied the term 'essence' to the one common characteristic that all things belonging to a particular category have in common and without which they could not be members of that category; hence, the idea of rationality as the essence of man.  This notion carried over into all facets of reality, including species of living creatures.

But it was the Egyptian-born philosopher Plotinus [270-204 B.C.] who brought Greek Idealism to the Roman Empire as Neo-Platonism, and with it the concept that all existents emanate from a "subjective essence" and that the mind plays an active role in shaping or ordering the objects of its perception, rather than passively receiving the data of sensory experience.   With the Empire's fall to the Goths in A.D. 476, Neo-Platonism gave way to the spread of Christianity in the Western World, leaving Aristotle's empirical definition of essence unchallenged to dominate philosophical thought throughout the Middle Ages.

When Darwin introduced his theory of Descent with Modification, he repudiated the Aristotelian essence by maintaining that diversity was an intrinsic and real aspect of nature, and that not only could deviations in a species affect the survival of individuals in a population but such changes could lead to the creation of a wholly new species.  Once the scientific community caught hold of evolution as an on-going process of the natural world, Essence as a philosophical metaphor for Nature was replaced by deterministic theories that only coincidentally related to the creative process—an anachronism rare in the annals of science.

Whether some sort of Neo-Platonism will eventually re-emerge as a philosophic platform for science is debatable; however, while these examples are a far cry from Plato's subjective World of Ideas, the fact that a few bold scientists are revisiting the essentialist ideas of classical philosophy is a step in the right direction.

In his present course, man seems determined to make himself a tool of his tools.  Perhaps this was anticipated by Socrates' admonishment: "Know thyself ...the unexamined life is not worth living."   (We'll explore self-awareness presently.)  As for our cognizance of a world "outside of" ourselves, we know things by their appearances, that is, by the perceptible qualities that manifest their being.  We have contact only with the boundaries or surfaces of things, never with being itself.  One might say that we are attracted to the cleavage rather than to the substantive being of the "beholden".  Reality for us is separated from self-awareness by its very mode of being other, and from every particular other by a barrier that is, in part at least, intellectual.

You may draw your own conclusion as to whether the physical world is a substantive or a "virtual" reality.  Of more importance to the Essentialist is the Value of that reality and its relevance to Freedom and meaning in the life experience.  So that you may approach our philosophy unfettered by scientific hubris, it will be my purpose in this thesis to take Essence out of the context of Being entirely (except for my Creation hypothesis) and present it as the absolute and necessary Source from which existence and all of its perceived entities and attributes—material, emotional and intellectual—are derived.

 

 

 


*Not surprisingly, most people are uncomfortable dealing with metaphysical theories which, by their nature, tend to be intuitive and lead to conclusions that may defy empirical evidence.  Scientists, in particular, are trained to reject information that cannot be expressed in numbers or equations, or that is incapable of experimental confirmation.  Because reality for the scientist is limited to observable phenomena that are measurable in units of time and space, philosophers are often unfairly criticized for attempting to resolve the "unanswerable" questions of scientific investigation on the basis of sheer speculation.  While it is true that speculation plays a role in the intuitive approach, so do logic and reason, and the difference in methodology does not make the philosopher's insight any less credible than that of the scientist when it comes to conceptualizing reality.  Nor should our perspective necessarily be restricted to things and events that can be quantified or made to conform to pre-determined parameters.   Lest this "expanded" reality perspective cause you to dismiss Essentialism as hopelessly implausible, it is suggested that you regard these postulates as "suppositional" until you've had sufficient opportunity to reflect on the cosmology as a whole.  Please keep an open mind as you do so.

 

 

 2.  Experience is the differentiation of Essence.

 

Contrary to what our senses tell us, the primary attribute of existence is not matter but difference, and the primary difference is not between mind and matter but between proprietary sensibility and relative otherness.  For something "to be" it must first be differentially perceptible to an observer as a finite other.  When we perceive a thing, we are introduced to a signature set of sensible values that are intellectually configurable to form a conscious entity.  Only after the thing has been "objectivized" as a formed image in consciousness is it recognized as a particular "being".  The theory of objectivization—"effectual intellection" (as I prefer to call it), or "introjection" as it was named by Avenarius who redefined it in the 1880s—relates to the cognitive process whereby certain sensations perceived by the central nervous system are represented as concrete images in consciousness.  Because intellectual sensibility is activated principally by changes perceived in the environment, difference is the principal operand in our acquisition of knowledge.

The human intellect is instinctively attracted to even the most subtle variation or change perceived in the relational world, with interest focusing mainly on values relative to these differences.  The precept of difference is, in fact, the basis for all learning; it is how infants learn to recognize their parents' faces, how molecular chemists go about developing specialty materials, and how artists and musicians continually manage to reach new heights in creative expression.  In addition to its role in making man the "discriminating" species, difference experienced as variety and motion is now known to play a key role in stimulating the endorphins associated with brain activity.

Life is an individual experience, the most basic characteristic of which is the division between the conscious proprietary self and the objective world outside it.  Consider this introspective statement from the Principles of Psychology by William James: "One great splitting of the whole universe is made by each of us, and for each of us almost all of the interest attaches to one of the halves: but we all draw the line of division between them in a different place.  When I say that we call the two halves by the same names, and that these names are 'me' and 'not-me', respectively, it will at once be seen what I mean."

Thus, we have proximate knowledge of our own physical organism; but like the objective world outside it, this too is separated from our proprietary awareness, although "carried around with us" for a lifetime.  Our physical body is, in fact, the vehicle through which our sensibility is made possible.  It is also that manifestation of our subjective self which serves as an object for others and by which we separate the "now/then" and "here/there" of space/time experience.  Inasmuch as difference is the mediator for the experience of reality, what do we know about its nature and origin?   Or, more to the point, how "real" is Finitude?

To divide a circle in half, one describes a line through the axis connecting the periphery.  Geometrically, of course, the diameter has no dimension; it is a nothingness.  Yet its "presence" creates something new and different: a pair of semicircles.  This delimiting or differentiating process applies to all experienced phenomena.  Every object and event in nature is separated from every other by the nothingness between them.  Since everything that has "being" is differentiated by nothingness, and being is what we call "reality", without nothingness our reality could not exist.

Blaisι Pascal was probably the first to consider nothingness a metaphysical reality.  He likened it to that Great Divide between the infinitesimal and the infinite without which there could be neither relations nor a self to contemplate them.  So intense was Pascal's fascination with nothingness that he constructed a crude column barometer in 1648.  Although he set out to prove that nothingness was an empirical reality, his experiments coincidentally proved the reverse.  The level of mercury in the column is determined by atmospheric pressure rather than by the nothingness of a vacuum, as previously believed.

There is an old adage that, to the best of my recollection, goes like this: 'Tis a long road that sees no turnings.  To me, it implies that the longer a road is, the less discernable are its "crooks" or turns.  I wrestled with this concept one fine spring day as a youth, turning it into a metaphysical conundrum: If a crooked line connecting two points is extended beyond the points infinitely in both directions, and the projected line were somehow to remain entirely within the observer's purview, would the crooks still be evident?  (I concluded that they would not.)

The "observer" I had in mind for this analogy was a superhuman being with the ability to see beyond the limits of finite perception, and my conclusion was based on speculation that an infinite perspective would overlook the minutia of finite existence.  The fallacy in my reasoning was not that my hypothetical linear projection would still have a beginning and an end—I was fully aware that infinity has no limits—but rather that a perspective capable of surveying a line so long as to be unending would necessarily "miss" the finite variants, reducing the perceived image to a straight line, just as a rural road with minor windings appears as a straight line on a conventional roadmap.

As finite observers, we mortals can't see the micro-world of cells and molecules unless we employ a microscope that reveals such details.  An infinite being would of course be expected to possess unlimited or infinite sensibility without visual aids.  Yet, if we apply the simple mathematical theory of limits to this concept, letting N represent any finite value, it would seem that Finitude (sector A-B in the "roadmap") disappears from the perspective of an infinite [absolute] observer.  Thus, Fig. 1 represents the individual's perspective of the finite sector.

 

 

 

Since the perspective of a single (human) observer has a mathematical value that is equivalent to Finitude, it is represented as the dividend N/α divided by the Finitude observed.  In this case, the Ns cancel out, converting to unity divided by Infinity, and the resulting quotient is a magnitude approaching mathematical nothingness but obviously large enough to support a perspective capable of scanning the finite sector.  To express the infinite perspective, we simply divide the whole of Infinity [α] by Finitude [N], which eliminates the observed Finitude while essentially leaving Infinity intact, as seen in Fig. 2.

Now except for the loss of the finitude factor in both examples, these simple equations prove nothing, since mathematical values are valid only within the scope of finite dimensions.  Nonetheless, it is interesting to note that such constructs tend to support the metaphysical precept that, depending on the perspective of the observer, finitude either "disappears" or shrinks to near nothingness (infinitesimilitude) when compared with infinity.

This mathematical anomaly did not escape the attention of Pascal, who referred to it rhetorically in his principal philosophical work, Pensιes, introducing the notion of infinitesimilitude as the hypothetical basis for a single-point universe: "Do you believe it to be impossible that God is infinite, without parts?  Yes.  I wish therefore to show you an infinite and indivisible thing.  It is a point moving everywhere with an infinite velocity; for it is one in all places and is all totality in every place."  An appreciation of this concept will, I think, be helpful in understanding the role of nothingness in the Creation hypothesis to follow.

The idea that I have tried to impart from this exercise is that, notwithstanding the assumed omniscience of the creator, in the strictly mathematical sense finitude amounts to virtually nothing.  Insofar as an individual's physical organism and lifespan are finite, he or she is essentially an infinitesimal point in the whole of Essence.  Man lives in the present; he is aware of himself and the world here and now.  Discounting memory and anatomical measurements, the point at which these space/time coordinates intersect defines the ultimate unit of awareness.  Because the mode of experience is "serialized" in time and movable in space, awareness is always changing.  Like Pascal's infinitesimal moving point, existential awareness is significant only in terms of the overall conscious image it describes.  But even when extended to include the full duration and occupied space of our finite lifetime, its "magnitude" approximates the nothingness that delineates the myriad "crooks and turns" of our experience.

Although hidden in our space/time cognizance of the world, nothingness is as "real" as any of the entities it defines.  If we are aware of it at all, it is as empty space—the "vacuum" that Pascal needed to confirm empirically as proof for the existence of metaphysical nothingness.  But however it is conceived, nothingness is the "differential factor" that separates the sensible phenomena of our finite world from the absolute reality that we are denied as differentiated creatures.  We use nothingness to tune-in and grasp the objective symbols of reality and add them to the stream of images that constitute our reality experience.  Man is the metaphysical "not-other" or negate in a reality of "synthetic otherness".  As individuals, we participate in this other and taste of its essence, but our cognizant awareness is not indigenous to it.  If it were, we would not be subject to birth and death, and our experience would not consist of a multiplicity of things and events that change from day to day.

In nature man is a mortal creature whose physical world is a finite illusion induced by fragmental awareness of the Essence that surrounds and engulfs him.  Orientalist Alan Watts once compared our view of the Absolute to that of someone unfamiliar with animals who, peering through a narrow fence slot as a cat walks by, describes the observation as "a head with whiskers and ears, followed immediately by a larger body, and lastly by a tail."  His point, of course, was that our finite panorama of reality unfolds as a sequence of events separated by nothingness.  The nothingness interrupting this sequence is due to the limitations of our sensibility, causing us to break down the Primary Essence  into the conscious awareness of a multiplicity of essents distributed throughout a three-dimensional universe.  Distinctions and differences have their source in the discontinuity and serialization of sensory experience and are not intrinsic to Essence itself which is absolute and constant in its Oneness.

Recall that the "what" of a thing is its essence.  What we call "existence" is really an ordered system of phenomena delineated by nothingness.  It is not part of Essence but it is "essential" in creating the appearance of being.  The essence of any contingent (non-necessary) being is its potential to exist.  It becomes an actual existent not by virtue of its nature or essence, but by virtue of an "act" that it receives—the act of existing—and this act is objectively the differentiation of Essence by nothingness.

Nothingness is the cosmic differentiator that reduces potentiality to actuality.  Whatever has the potential to exist is not actualized by its own power, for prior to existence there is no "itself", but rather by the essential 'not-other' whose negation makes the potential to exist necessary.  Not only is it impossible for a man to bring himself into being, it is also just as impossible for him to sustain his existence.  Whatever he does, he can only do on condition that he exist—feed himself, for example.  We keep ourselves alive, but we do not preserve our existence.  We need to be before we can keep ourselves alive.  We bring the appearance of objects into subjective reality by framing them in nothingness, but we cannot bring them into being from nothing; we can only act according to the powers of our nature, within the limits of that nature; and since existence is not an essential part of man's nature, the human act of negating (differentiating) objects and events does not alone give them being.

But there is more to cognizant sensibility than objective reality.  The values of which man is made sensible transcend the delimiting "slots" in his awareness, indicating that values are not mere "of-the-moment" feelings but derivatives of an eternal Essence for which objective reality only provides a temporary blueprint.  Considering the essential source of value and the fact that value discrimination is idiosyncratic of human beings, it could be argued that the capacity to realize (and interpret) value is at least as important as "the ability to reason" in defining man's existence.  Indeed, it is in realizing the Value of Essence that the individual comes closest to experiencing immortality.

What we are really "latching onto" in our daily contact with otherness is the value of Essence gathered up incrementally, "piecemeal fashion", by the five neuro-receptive faculties of our physiological organism, and consciously configured as discrete entities in time and space.  But even before these symbols of reality can be converted to cognitive intelligence, the individual must be value-oriented; that is, he or she must be predisposed to realize Value in the experience of otherness.  This necessitates a priori division of self-awareness from Essence; so that, paradoxically, it is nothingness that not only separates us from absolute reality but that makes possible our experience of the finite world.

 

 

3.  Creation is a negation of Essence.

 

Cosmologists have traditionally viewed creation as a cataclysmic event, or series of events, occurring at some time in the distant past (most recently estimated as 13.7 billion years ago) which is thought to designate the origin, if not the cause, of the universe.  According to the physical laws of thermodynamics, the universe is causally bound to a finite history that runs its course from the alpha of creation to the omega of entropy.

This concept poses a number of logical contradictions.  For example, even if it were conceded (for hypothetical purposes) that time existed before there was anyone to sense its passing or any event to measure it by (not to mention what happens to it after entropy), there remains the ex nihilo fallacy—the physical impossibility of something arising out of nothing.  Although a few cosmologists still subscribe to the theory of a steady-state universe with no beginning, or a multi-dimensional "parallel universe" system, either of which arguably might circumvent these problems, the prevailing theory specifically places the start of everything at the moment of the Big Bang—a cosmic explosion which, compounding the flawed logic, is usually explained as the result of  a "critical energy mass"!

In a space/time perspective of creation, what comes before Being (i.e., "things") is Nothing.  While this remains a paradox for scientists whose reality is a "causal function" of time and energy, metaphysical reality is not dependent on objective parameters.  Instead, metaphysics points to a Primary Source (Essence) as the creative progenitor.  How is that feasible, you ask?

In the philosophy of Essence, laws and theories are accepted as constructs of the human reasoning process which do not necessarily reflect the true nature of reality.  For the Essentialist, the predicates "to be" and "to exist" are derivatives of an "uncreated" Essence whose reality transcends the parameters of finite existence.  The word "existence" comes from the Latin word existere meaning "to appear", "to arise", "to become", or "to be".   Literally, it means "to stand out from" (ex- being the Latin prefix for "out" added to the Latin verb stare, meaning "to stand").  But if Essence is a priori, and existence is limited to phenomena that occur in time and space, then it is illogical to say that Primary Essence exists.  Rather, Essence is the infinite Source of what exists, not an existent.  (Aristotle rejected the "Infinite" as an existing reality on the premise that a whole number cannot be infinite because one can never actually count to infinity.)  So the Essentialist is not compelled to regard Creation as a specific "act" or "physical happening" in time and space.  Instead, he views space/time existence as a perceived reduction of Primary Essence whereby objective entities (existents) appear as the product of his differentiated experience of otherness.

Let me say at the outset that this hypothesis is by no means an attempt to outline the complex dynamics of physical and biological creation; I have neither the academic credentials nor the allotted space for such an undertaking.  Indeed, it isn't even desirable, within the scope of this exposition, that the reader come away with a comprehensive understanding of creation in the historical or evolutionary sense.  Nor will I waste the reader's time arguing for the necessity of a "primary cause" which, to anyone in search of ultimate truth, will be patently obvious.  My aim here is simply to posit an original cosmology that, hopefully, will account for the major constituents of experiential existence while showing that "process" is, in reality, an objectivized perspective of the ineffable nature or Value of the Primary Source.

As there is no reason to presuppose an antecedent, in the tradition of Occam's razor I identify the a priori source as Essence and attribute it directly to the Absolute Whole which, by the traditional religio-philosophical parameters, is characterized as "uniform, unchanging and limitless".  We've observed that objects come into existence by assuming indigenous perceptible qualities, that is, by their being separated or differentiated as a relational system.  Clearly, the created world that we call existence or finitude stands apart from the absolute source, yet in some way must be related to it.  Although Essence is incomprehensible from the finite perspective, one may logically infer that the primary source is "uncreated", which eliminates creatio ex nihilo as well as the infinite regression of prior causes.  But any attributive description of the Absolute eludes the power of logic.  So the question for ontology is: How do we get from the immutably absolute to the transitionally finite?

In an obscure essay on mysticism, Andrey Smirnov of the Department of Oriental Philosophy at Russia's Academy of Sciences, explains how the mystics of Europe and Islam got around the inadequacy of definitions in describing a divinity or primary cause.  "The mystics understood the indefinableness of God in a far wider sense than did other medieval philosophers and thinkers.  Indefinableness, as the mystics put it, traverses the limits of the indefinable in the sense of Aristotelian logic.  For anything to be indefinable per genus et differentiam does not exclude at all the possibility of description, and description is, of course, stating something definite about the thing described.  But the indefinableness of God in a mystical sense comes in fact to be indefiniteness; that is, it rules out any definite proposition about the Divine essence.  Any such proposition means a sort of limitation imposed on the Divine, while the latter is incompatible with any limit.  The ontological unlimitedness of God entails for a mystic an epistemological indefiniteness: any assertion about God would then be only metaphorical and would not serve as an established basis of knowledge."9

Faced with these descriptive limitations, Nicholas of Cusa [a.k.a. Cusanus, 1401-1464] developed a theory based on the "not-other" as a symbolic connotation for God.  Cusanus argues that, although God is indefinable, it can be stated that the world is not God but is not anything other than God.  In Nicholas's own words: "The first principle cannot be other either than an other or than nothing and likewise is not opposed to anything." God is "not other", he asserts, because God is not other than any [particular] other, even though "not-other" and "other" [once derived] are opposed.  But no other can be opposed to God from whom it is derived.  The significance of Cusa's theory is profound.  It has afforded philosophers a most valuable metaphysical tool—namely, a definition for the ineffable Source whose attributive nature is indefinable.

Professor Clyde Miller of Stony Brook University's Philosophy Department has formalized Cusa's theory as a logical proposition: "For any given non-divine X, X is not other than X, and X is other than not X. What is unique about the divine not other is precisely that it is not other than either X or not X ('cannot be other than'—'is not opposed to anything').  The transcendent not-other thus undercuts both the principles of non-contradiction and of the excluded middle."10  The simple analogy of an ordinary drinking glass may help us understand the Cusan not-other.  The inside of the glass is not its outside, and the outside is not its inside; yet, at the same time the glass is not other than either of its sides.  Not-other is the coincidence of all otherness, including nothingness and contrariety.

One of the corollaries of Cusa's theory is the concept of "actualized possibility", or what he called possest, a combination of the Latin posse, [able, possible] and esse, [being, actualization].  Cusa reasoned that if actuality did not exist, then nothing could actually be.  But the being of things and their relations is what we call existence.  Things appear; therefore actuality exists.  Possibility and actuality are co-dependent in existence but coincide in the non-contradictory Source—ultimate reality in which opposites like 'positive/negative' and 'being/nothing' are equivalent.  If the possibility of contradictory otherness is always present in Essence and becomes actualized when there is an awareness to experience it, then it is this actualization that we call existence.  (If you are wondering what happens to Essence when there is no awareness to experience it, you need reminding that time is an intellectual construct of the human mind which experiences events sequentially, while Creation is a timeless constant.)   

Another way of understanding Cusa's concept of actualized contrariety is to realize that every existent is definable both positively (in terms of what it is) and negatively (in terms of what it is not).  For example, a triangle constructed from three connecting lines may be conceived as having two contradictory forms—the one defined by the space contained within the lines, and the other formed by the space outside the lines.  Neither conception alters the definition of a triangle.  Thus, Essence, which is defined as "all that is", is the equivalent of the "nothing that is not."  So that, even from the finite perspective, Essence can be conceived as both absolute potentiality and absolute actuality without contradiction.  Since negation does not alter the absolute source, it is manifested as a dichotomy of nothingness and being, which is the appearance of differentiated existence. 

Of course any relational expression of Essence is inadequate for the reason that Essence is holistic and non-relational.  However, we can identify the actualized elements of Essence as they appear in existence.  Considered metaphysically, actualized existence is triadic in that it is constituted of Beingness, Nothingness, and Sensibility.  Nothingness is a negate which doesn't exist but is still functional in the triad.  According to the law of contradiction, if one element of the triad stands alone, the other two elements are in contradictory identity.  Thus, if Nothingness is negated from Essence, Beingness and Sensibility are left as the contradictory essents, an essent being an actualized product of creation.  This forms a subject/object dyad in which Being is made sensible as the subjective awareness of an objective essent—"otherness".  As the sole non-contradictory element, Nothingness becomes the ground of physical reality, dividing Sensibility into the multiplicity of awareness-selves and, through the realizaton of Value, differentiating otherness into the finite beings and events of an insentient universe.

Such reasoning was not unknown to Plotinus and Eckhart whose teachings were the basis for Cusan logic, but it was the mystical tradition that gave the concept of a "negated other" logical credibility as a creational thesis.  What distinguished the mystics was their close linking of these two assertions.  I find it surprising that Western philosophers have shown little interest in a not-other ontology and have virtually ignored a negational source as the primary cause.  The rationale for negation is quite simply that any created thing is a lesser entity than the whole.  Since the objects of creation are secondary and inferior to the undifferentiated whole, they can arise only by negation of the whole.

How is it possible for an absolute source to step back from itself, as it were, and actualize something else?  There is but one plausible hypothesis to account for the creation of a dynamic, multiplistic universe from a constant, monistic source: viz., Primary Essence is negational.  Because Essence is absolute and ubiquitous, there is no other within or beside it.  Therefore, in order to create an other, it "invents" or synthesizes it by negation.  The modus operandi for the creation of synthetic otherness is abnegation or "self-denial", rather than action or movement.  Like the mountain climber who has ascended to the highest summit and for whom further progress can only be descent, Absolute Essence is the only entity that creates by "exclusion".  The potential for actualizing the appearance of contrariety (difference) is innate in its Oneness.  And because negation is the potentiality of Essence, which itself is primary, the cause and the source of creation are one.  So that what is perceived by the creature to be "evolutionary process" in time and space is in reality a fait accompli of the immutable Creator—a metaphysical modality representing what Absolute Essence itself is not; i.e., differentiated otherness

 

Johannes [Meister] Eckhart seems to have been drawn to the concept of a negational Creator, as it is a recurrent theme in the doctrines he taught as a Dominican prefect in medieval Germany.  Although bound to the theology of the Church, this extraordinary gnostic had an intuitive grasp of metaphysical reality and was not afraid to explain it in common everyday terms that eventually led to charges of religious heresy.  I like to think of Eckhart as the first "theological" Essentialist.  In this mini-sermon, for example, having defined God as "...undivided and One in essence", he proceeds to discuss what is clearly an allusion to "creation by negation":

The divine One is a negation of negations. Every creature contains a negation: one denies that it is the other. [Even] an angel denies that it is any other creature; but God contains the denial of denials: He is the One who denies of every other that he is anything except himself .11

Like Plotinus, Eckhart's Creator is a unitary Essence whose "absolute fullness" overflows into a differentiated "otherness" that we call existence.  But, as Raymond Blakney mentions in his translator's notes, Eckhart was "...unwilling that God should be defined by the name man gives him", instead coining the term "istigkeit" which appeared in varied Germanic spellings throughout The Sermons and was evidently found objectionable by the Inquisition.  That Blakney chose to anglicize this term to "is-ness", as in the passage "God's is-ness is my is-ness", increases the likelihood that Eckhart wished to convey an idea of the Creator's essentiality that would avoid the common notion of finite being which, as he correctly surmised, is "derived from another".  Given Eckhart's choice of Essence to characterize the nature of his unified deity, and allowing "nothingness" to transect finitude by time and space, we see that an ontology is possible in which negation is the genesis of existence.  Bear in mind that, as Cusa's "first principle", Essence opposes nothing; otherness is therefore its negated object.  Only by the negation of Essence is an antithetical otherness conceivable.

My Creation hypothesis is based in part on the Cusan premise that the world "is not anything other than God", which suggests a negational [not-other] Primary Essence.  Because Essence is absolute in potentiality and contains no otherness, what it negates (or denies) in actuality must also be absolute.  There is but one possible option: Nothingness.  As the antithetical essent, only nothingness shares the absolute and undivided status of Essence.  What Essence actualizes as an "other" is its absolute antonym.  Negated Nothingness creates the appearance of difference—that is, it actualizes Sensibility in opposition to differentiated Beingness.  In humanistic terms, negation is a denial—in the first instance, the denial of nothingness.  Nothingness literally means "not anything"—the absence of being—which is why I refer to it as the "negate".  Nothingness does not exist, either in Essence or in physical reality, because Essence negates it.  Negation is not a singular event but, rather, an inferred characteristic of Primary Essence that is reflected in the actualized nothingness that differentiates and defines "beingness" and sensibility in existence.  Eckhart's teachings support this hypothesis: "To create is to give being out of nothing," he says.

Philosophy scholars will note that my thesis is loosely modeled on Hegelian "double negation".  Although Hegel based his primary source on Being rather than Essence, he postulated that it is negated—that is, reflected in an image or "recognized"—which implies subjective cognizance of an objective "other".  He went on to explain that this reflection of Being "turns out to be appearance"; but it is also "the proximate truth of [Essence]" in the sense that it contains Essence in an objective form.  The inward negation of Essence is manifested in its outward appearance, and the completion of this identity between inward and outward is ActualityThus, according to Hegel, Appearance is the negation of the negation of Being, whereas Actuality is the negation of the negation of Essence.

When Hegel says Appearance is "the negation of the negation of Being," he is alluding to a secondary negation—one performed by the negated self, as opposed to the primary negation which is the negation or denial of nothingness that actualizes space/time existence.  Value can be perceived only when it exists as an other to the perceiver, that is, when Awareness is differentiated from Beingness.  The experience of an object is the result of a negation by the negate.  This secondary negation reduces essent-value relative to a particular being or object.  Experience is the process of appropriating essent-value for oneself and objectivizing the being that this value represents.  [Note that the negate is a "nothingness" in the existential sense, just as Sensibility is nothingness in the empirical sense.]  Before exploring the value connection to this cosmology, it may be useful to look at the complementarity or differentiating potential of negation from another perspective.

The Israeli art critic and author Tsion Avital relates the paradox of double-negation, as developed by philosophers, to the oppositional nature of negated existence that makes subjective affirmation possible.  According to Professor Avital, negation-affirmation is the necessary condition for "the structural shadows of mind-reality" for which he has coined the term 'mindprints'.  Here is a sampling of the artist's inspired thoughts, modestly expressed, from an essay on symmetry and asymmetry:

The wonder of Creation is perhaps the wonder of the creation of negation.  Everything else is derived from it.  The first verses of Genesis describe the first distinctions that God made, which are also the creation of the first complementary pairs: heaven-earth, light-darkness, etc., but no distinction is possible without negation, and negation and double negation therefore preceded all distinctions that followed.  For the same reason complementarity too, which was generated by negation, preceded the complementary pairs that were created.  Actually, the first Asymmetry, which according to the Big Bang theory is the moment of creation, could not be without negation.  In a humorous vein, one might suggest a different opening for the first chapter of the Bible: In the beginning God was very bored amidst Perfect Symmetry, in which absolutely nothing happened.  Then accidentally He sighed, "Oh No!"  This created the first Asymmetry, which brought into being the other mindprints...and the rest is History.  In other words, there is no symmetry without asymmetry, and there is no asymmetry without negation; therefore negation is a precondition for Symmetry-Asymmetry, and the same can be shown with regard to all the other mindprints.  In a final regression, the negation of negation is perhaps what created Being, and this is perhaps the significance of the proposition that Being was created from nothingness.  There is nothing new about this, since the idea already arose in the creation myths and in philosophy, in Western and Eastern cultures, and also in modern physics. ...Not only is epistemology impossible without negation and double negation, but neither is ontology possible without this mindprint.  That is to say, there is no Being at all levels without its complementary opposite, nonbeing or nothingness.  In both cases, in the noetic world and also in the material world, negation creates otherness: it splits unity and simplicity and thus creates diversity and complexity12

Sometimes a simple anecdote can help us understand the meaning of oxymorons like "negation of negation".  When Michelangelo was asked how he was able to sculpt his masterpiece 'The David', he is said to have replied: "Creating The David was easy—all I had to do was remove all that was not David from the stone."  Think of nothingness as the chisel we use to carve out all that is not finite being from absolute Essence.  Just as in the logic of morality two 'wrongs' don't make a 'right', in the logic of metaphysics two 'negatives' don't make a 'positive'; they make a dichotomy.  When an entity negated by Essence negates, it creates the appearance of being—the dichotomy otherwise known as being-aware.  This dichotomy differentiates sensibility and makes it proprietary to the individual organism.  So, from here on out, we will be using the term "proprietary awareness" for organic sensibility, leaving an absolutist conception of Sensibility as an inferred synonym for Essence.

You will recall Eckhart's assertion that the Creator [Essence] denies that otherness is anything but itself.  The logical equivalent of this denial is expressed by Cusa's "not anything other than".  It is my theory that, in the metaphysical sense, denial is a negation of nothingness to actualize an experienced other.  Because Essence is absolute and all-pervasive, nothingness cannot be a "void" in the existential (causative) sense.  As the being-denied negate, however, it represents the essent-value needed to make being aware.  The coupling of these two value-deprived essents—(proprietary) awareness and (universal) being, each separated from the Source by the negated nothingness (empty space and time)—establishes the primary relation for differentiated existence.  And while it is uncommon to ascribe value to either being or awareness, the fact that their coincidence defines Essence itself makes such a conception useful, if not a logical imperative.

Although Eckhart rarely speaks of value per se, in his Defense against heresy charges brought before the Archbishop of Cologne in 1326 he relates value specifically to Essence, indicating that he understood its metaphysical significance.

Take it for granted that what you look for with God has no essential value, whatever it may be, whether profit, or reward, or spirituality, or whatever. [Using God] you are looking for nothing and that is why you find nothing. Creatures [by themselves] are pure nothings. I do not say that they are either important or unimportant but that they are pure nothings. What has no Being [of and by itself] is nothing. Creatures have no Being of their own, for their Being is the presence of God.  If God withdrew from them even for a moment, they would all perish. From time to time I have said—and it is true—that to get all the world together with God is to get nothing more than God alone. All creation without God could have no more Being than a fly would have without him—just as much—no more or less.11

Now, as a non-entity [negate] with no being of its own, the creature would have to adduct or abstract its properties of being from physical reality [otherness], as I have hypothesized above.  But the message of this sermon is that there is "no essential value" apart from God, which is to say that Value—the presence of God—is a prerequisite for experience.  Eckhart has stated elsewhere that God is "absolute fullness of Being"Only a primary source so defined could represent Essential Value to human sensibility.  Since differentiated being-aware is "actualized" Essence, it follows that the nothingness that is not experienced as being represents not only differentiated awareness but the essential value to which Eckhart was alluding.  Thus, although it has no empirical existence, nothingness is the Value that connects all differentiated being, as well as the negate, to the essential source.

The idea that value realization can be an "active agent" in Creation may seem bizarre; yet, if we understand that Value is all-pervasive we can see that it subsumes the negate within it, directing the course of differential negation.  Heidegger called this secondary negation "nihilation", and his explanation is illuminating in this context: "The nothing itself nihilates.  Nihilation is not some fortuitous accident.  Rather, as the repelling gesture toward the retreating whole of beings, it discloses these beings in their full and heretofore concealed strangeness as what is radically other—with respect to the other."  In a finite world, two negatives do make a positive, and the negate's nihilation of "essential value"—its denial that this otherness is anything but a particular being—theoretically should yield a positive result that relates in some way to the denied or negated value of both essents.

Eckhart's "essential value" provides the key to an ontology by which the realization of value may be understood as a "positive result" of nihilation.  Value-sensibility is what I have called the primary, undifferentiated affinity of the negate for the essent which makes experience possible.  It is the attraction between these two contingencies that counters the differentiating effects of negation and draws the dichotomy of existence back to its unified Essence.  But we don't experience essentially; we experience differentially.  Experience is a set of relative values that are made aware to the organism, and which the intellect interprets objectively.  So that what happens is an intellectual process whereby the values perceived are objectified as differentiated beingness.  To become aware of an object—a differentiated being—the intellect denies that the values perceived are an other and "objectifies" them as a specific being.  And since proprietary awareness also acquires the value of the "objectivized being" for itself, the essent is reduced to a being-made-aware, completing the value transaction.

This introduces a dynamic element to our self/other dichotomy.  It invites the theory that every negation of otherness represents a metaphysical conjunction of negate and essent which conditionally annuls the effect of the primary negation, restoring some essent-value to both.  In transactional terms, this means that for each phenomenon negated [delimited] from otherness as a finite being, a commensurate value is restored to sensibility as a realization of the observer.  It is the negate—the "being-denied" essent—that is the progenitor of existential differentiation, starting with the "other/not-other" dichotomy and giving rise to cognizance of time and space, the precept of numerality, and the concept of causation as evolutionary process.  While the precept of space/time existence may be regarded as "pre-intellectual" to the negate insofar as it is the mode of human experience, from the Essential perspective there is no past or future, and what happens in actualized existence is only a finite perspective of ultimate reality.  Epistemologically, value is the source of self-awareness and its cognizance of the physical world, including the genetic attributes by which sensibility becomes individuated as a self-aware organism.  By virtue of the organism's capacity to intellectualize the being of other, it becomes the negate's proprietary cognizance, that is to say, individuated being-aware localized in time and space.  The key to this ontology is the principle of cognitive causation, sometimes alluded to as "phenomenology" by objectivists.

The individual self is the existential locus and causal agent of Value interaction, collaborating in the creation process.  Because every experience is a move toward unifying the self/other dichotomy through self-identification, it is sensed psycho-emotionally as an "affirmation" relative to the physical properties conceptualized.  So that, rather than affirming the being of an object experienced, by denying its pure otherness we are actually affirming its finite value.  In ontological terms, the essential negation infuses sensibility with nothiugness, the effect of which is to actualize a subjective self whose object is otherness.  Otherness is further differentiated into being(s) when the subject denies that an object experienced is anything but the value acquired via the experience.  Intellectually, we realize the conditional value of "the other" in the process of delimiting its existential properties.  Or, as an all-encompassing teleological principle: we affirm the Value of Essence by negating the otherness of its being.

While otherness is primary to existence, Value and Being are secondary or derived experience.  What fills the void of our value-awareness is not the things we perceive intellectually as discrete beings, but their "provisional" value to us—the value of differentiated otherness—which we acquire as part of our experience and sense psycho-emotionally.  In other words, experience is negating the otherness of things so that they become our reality, and so that we can appropriate their values for our selves.  Insofar as value is perceived relationally by the senses, it determines the form of the observed images retained in our conscious memory.  But value is also our affinity for the integrity of Essence, which means that it is essential and non-negatable.  It is only by incrementally reclaiming our own displaced value from what we experience as being that we ultimately dissolve the dichotomy and "restore" the absolute [non-contradictory] identity of the Source.       

The Essentialist's reality paradigm is not "the becoming of being," as postulated by existentialists but, rather, "the realization of value".  Value is born into the world as pre-intellectual sensibility seeking to transform itself into being-aware.  The proprietary self is a blank slate which, by virtue of its essential origin, has the valuistic potential to become a conscious 'being-aware'.  Metaphysically we are the passive agents of an objective world created by our sense of Value.  But subjective consciousness is causative and primary to the objective reality experienced.  As conscious agents we create being by inferring it from our experience of Value.  And the form of that being is shaped by the relational values which our cognitive sensibility converts to the being of otherness.  We become by denying or negating that "otherness" while supplanting our own nothingness with its finite value.  So that, existentially, we are active agents that create our own being in the world, along with the freedom to determine our unique role in the life-experience.  

Only nothingness is expended or "lost" in this valuistic exchange which could not occur without the interaction between each essent and its value complement.  [See my animated visual showing how these elements relate to Essence in the Value section below.]  Because one's experience of being is delimited by time and space, value-sense is "conditional" in that it is relative only to the finite entity or event perceived.  The value(s) that we realize from experience are but "psychosomatic sensations" of Essence as represented by finite essents (beings), which is why I refer to relative value as essent-value.  (It should not be inferred from this simplified scenario that the experience of a phenomenon precedes the realization of its value.  The entire "check and balance" transaction described above is essentially instantaneous.  Also, I use the term "realization" advisedly with respect to value, since, although we reclaim rather than create value in the act of experience, our affirmation of it in otherness ultimately impacts on Essence which is the unified embodiment of Value.)

In becoming aware the self assumes the role of "observer", opening its sensibilities to value and incrementally negating its being as an "other" within a variable space/time perspective.  There is no sensation until the sense receptors are stimulated, and the stimulus for organic awareness is Difference—the changing value of the self's constantly unfolding value perspective.  Individual awareness begins when the organic self "objectivizes" its other-essent through the barrier of nothingness between them in order to delimit or differentiate a range of finite attributes, much as a glass prism differentially bends pure white light into its separate color components.  Because every creation is a negation, the organism's central nervous system must be wired in such a way that intellection is applied to all sensory experience.  The net effect of intellection on consciousness is to create an impression—a dimensional projection, if you will—of finite being, that is, of existential reality wherein phenomenal properties corresponding to the ineluctable "cosmic spectrum" are sequentially parceled out of the essent and apperceived as a diversity of objects arranged in time and space.  Epistemologically, then, it can be said that Being is a creation of the individuated self.

It should be remembered that Creation only appears to take place in time.   Space/time is the mode of finite experience, and there is no experience until the negate is "embodied" as a sentient agent.  As a biological organism the negate exists divided as one of many selves, each of which takes on the dimensional aspects of existence: its "beingness" in the natural world is perceived objectively as occupying a variable position in finitude as defined by its anatomical size and relative placement in space, and subjectively by its stream of consciousness [memory and cognition] in time.  It is through the space/time cognizance and identification of its antithetical essent as the "being of otherness" that the organic self partakes of the universal properties and dynamics of an external world.  (Conversely, the self may be viewed as the agent through which Essence is completed or perfected by an extrinsic perspective of value.)

Any theory of cognition must include an epistemology to account for the perception of form in physical reality, whether Platonic or empirical.  Thus, in the realm of ideas [the Platonic world], "the many" represents the provisional phase or modality of "the One" in the same way that finitude represents the provisional phase of infinity.  And, just as we can intellectually divide a whole circle into two semicircles simply by envisioning a non-dimensionl diameter crossing its surface, it is a reasonable assumption that the spacio-temporal aspects of the physical world likewise result from intellection or the delimiting process of the mind.  So that, while form has been suggested in this ontology by reference to the terms "phase" and "modality", I have also suggested that beingness—the perceived "form of existents"—is a result of the intellectual delimitation of otherness by the individual subject.

Plato conjectured that forms (or what philosophers today would call "universals") are objective "essents" that exist independently of human minds but are the ontological basis for things perceived in the sense world.  He had difficulty, however, relating the manifold class of things—even as idealized universals—to the undifferentiated Source.  Like the newly created earth described in Genesis, the other essent [Kant's noumenon] at this pre-perceptual state is "without form and void", yet rife with the possibility of all things.  Where, then, does the specificity of form come from?  How does the negate differentiate the objects and events of otherness and distinguish their specific physical attributes?

We have already identified actualized nothingness as the dimensional factor responsible for the perception of space and time.  But what accounts for the specificity of the physical universe framed within these dimensions?  One possible hypothesis is that the other-essent is negated non-uniformly, that the mode of negation is asymmetric or irregular and universally "patterned" to center the individuated self within a physical world.  This of course assumes that the existential template is formed or created by some quirk in the actualization of Essence.  But Primary Essence is perfect Oneness, which means that it is free of patterns or demarcations of any kind.

Let me suggest a more plausible theory: It is a metaphysical principle that the negation of nothingness by Essence actualizes existence precisely as it is experienced.  This avoids having to posit creation as a "process", that is, the necessity for Essence to design and follow a pre-actualized cosmic template.  The universal pattern is axiomatic; it is simply "what happens" when Essence negates its antithetical nothingness.  Actualization contains the mathematical and geometrical relations that govern the forms of all experienced phenomena, thus providing an ontological mechanism for a dimensional world of formatted essents, the particulars of which are defined by its cognizant agents.  Moreover, inasmuch as Essence-denied versus Essence-affirmed has been offered as the paradigm of creation, we also have a valuistic purpose for this ontology.  [I posit these theories without epistemological justification because they are consistent with the delimitation concept and because they eliminate problems inherent in traditional extrinsic ontologies, including the need to explain "differentiation" and "intellection" as anything but the synchronous co-operands of conscious perception, the creator of being.]

 

Here, then, is an original theory of creation that will support a dynamic space/time system without violating the metaphysically stipulated "uniform, unchanging and limitless" Source.  [It is worthy of note, and not coincidental, that these holistic attributes also apply to nothingness.]  Just as the sentient creature is born into otherness by the negation of Essence, so is the value of Essence born into sensibility by the creature's negation of being—the negation in both instances expressing the creative power of an otherness denied.  The dynamics of this ontology perhaps may be best appreciated as a valuistic scenario in which the primary denial of otherness ultimately comes "full circle" with the autonomous affirmation of Value.  (This concept will be more fully explored in later segments relating to Individual Value and Freedom.)

It is presumptuous, of course, to theorize the creation of a single individual, let alone the entire cosmos and everything appearing in it.  Understandably, there will be objections to any theory that supports the spontaneous creation of a multiform reality by an absolutely uniform source.  Suffice it to say that Essence presents the Value of a denied otherness incrementally to subjective (proprietary) awareness which, by means of the cerebro-neural functioning of its self-identified organism, has the inherent capability to configure a differentiated image of reality from the experience.  We know that relational precepts exist, potentially at least, in the awareness of newborn infants; otherwise cognizance of universal forms would not be feasible.  This suggests that the brain is not only the physiological locus for the patterning of intelligence but a "gatekeeper" for imaging sensory data, extracting from its denied essent a handful of qualitative and relational attributes whereby the individuated self constructs its multiform reality and, in concert with other selves, defines the things and events of value.  Such incremental arrangement of sense data is both necessary and practical in order to orientate the individual creature within a universally comprehensible space/time environment.

From birth onward man learns to view reality as the object of his proprietary awareness (subjectivity).  The fallacy of this common-sense notion becomes clear when we absent awareness from the self/other equation: the object and its properties disappear!  For if everything that is "real" is otherness, then the subject is logically excluded from reality, which is metaphysically untenable.  Hence, this figure showing multiple subjects converging on a single object is only the existential perspective of reality.  (The proper metaphysical representation would be an "involution" of this illustration, with each self represented as the center of the object [otherness]—except that a graphic depiction of multiple co-concentric selves is physically impossible.)  While other monistic models have been proposed, the valuistic reality I have hypostasized for Essentialism may be considered "totally subjective" in the sense that "other" and "not-other" have a common essence that is finitely accessible to man as Value.

The relational world is a subsistent continuum; that is, it manifests relational properties that are universally measurable by tools—rulers, microscopes, clocks and the like—which are designed to define and quantify the objects of human perception.  It also manifests multi-subject awareness: finite cognizance is constantly being "recreated" as a self-centered subject with a singular experience of otherness, each replication assuming a different identity and reality perspective.  Thus, while at any given time, the physical properties of experienced objects and events may be corroborated by other subjects, the qualitative properties ultimately allude to the cognizant awareness of the individual observer.

That Nature is expressible in mathematical terms and physical laws underscores the fact that its ultimate source is absolute and that the human brain is a differentiator par excellence.  But no amount of "objective evidence" can invalidate the concept that existence is the finite perception of Essence delimited by nothingness.  And while the presumptions of this mini-synthesis might not have satisfied the scholars of ancient Athens, they do provide a workable paradigm for development of a value-based Essence cosmology

          4.  Nothingness is the Difference.  

 

There is vastly more nothingness than matter in the so-called "physical world" of subjective experience, and infinitely more in the theoretical world of quantum physics.  Indeed, scientists in the 1990s had calculated the critical density of interstellar space as equivalent to about one hydrogen atom per cubic meter.  Although much of man's experience is associated with denser substances on earth's mantle, 90% of the atoms in the universe are hydrogen.  Since the mass of a hydrogen atom is contained in a single positively charged proton encircled by an electron, the atom itself is mostly empty space.  In 2001, after analyzing light-shift data received from more than 140,000 galaxies, Australian astronomer John Peacock concluded that the universe has a density of "next to nothing": "It's about 300 x 1027 times less dense than water", he reported in the journal NATURE, "or one ten-thousandth of an ounce in a volume the same size as the Earth."13 

Yet, because nothingness cannot be experienced, it has no apparent value for man: he is oblivious to it, and instead perceives reality as being.  This irony illustrates the principle that what we call "Truth" is a variable that depends on the perspective of the observer.  Certainly the Theory of Relativity applies to cosmological theory as much as it does to nuclear physics.  Simply stated: everything is defined in terms of the perspective from which it is observed.  While this is an obvious truism, its less obvious corollary may help explain an apparent lack of progress in the development of cosmology, ontology and metaphysics: the human being is programmed to observe and comprehend reality only from the finite perspective.  From the perspective of finitude, nothingness represents an insensible void in reality and is not directly experienceable.  Metaphysically, however, nothingness is the potentiality to differentiate; it is negated by Essence to actualize the division whereby an autonomous subject becomes aware of a diversified object.

As a case in point, if we could understand that essential nothingness marks the dimensional limits of proprietary experience, rather than simply delineating one thing from another, we would realize our immanent connection with Essence.  We are the negates that stand at the crossroads of empirical time and space.  Ontologically speaking, nothingness is where each self begins and ends, leaving its history as an otherness for posterity.  Individual experience is a linear progression through time in which reality is a passing moment called "now".  Everything that has happened up until now is fixed in memory; what does not qualify as either cognitive experience or memory is a nothingness, as is everything that will happen in the future.  Common sense tells us this is not true, of course; for we "know", intellectually, that the world existed before we were born and that it presumably will continue in the same way when we, individually, have ceased to exist.  

But common sense can be deceiving, and we must be careful not to confuse it with metaphysical truth.  For example, if we could capture the physical world at the infinitesimal moment that defines the real "now", all of its constituent elements, including the atoms and energy waves that are believed to structure its (and our) being, would be frozen in their tracks, bringing experience to an abrupt halt.  At the other extreme, if we could view reality laid out in its entirety through the infinity of time, the orbits and trajectories of its components would be so complex and interwoven as to fuse all entities and events into a single homologous mass.  Thus, conceptualized on either side of finitude, the "beingness" that we call physical reality is rendered insensible—a nothingness in terms of experience; which is precisely why the illusion of being is not essential to the true Reality and why the experience of a differentiated world requires a finite observer.  

Again, where my experience ends someone else's begins; so that the natural world itself maintains a certain continuity, although not necessarily as a space/time continuum.  The "empirical fact" that the existence of a particular individual precedes or is contemporary with another is a moot point from the absolutist perspective because reality is essentially timeless and, therefore, non-sequential.  But such historical projections are not part of experience; they belong to a dimension beyond the realm of common sense where, from an existential perspective, we are cognizant of only nothingness.  This "empirical" nothingness also divides all human awareness—in all historical time slots—as individual Value-receptive agents of Essence.   For the physicist or philosopher in search of a Grand Theory of Everything, empirical existence is a zero-sum game.

Likewise, it defies common sense that were it not for memory—our neuro-sensory link to the past—nothingness would replace the continuity of individual awareness [cognizance] that each of us calls "I".  Without this continuity I could not even be aware of myself as a person, since the moment-to-moment sensations that normally constitute my personal experience would have no historical subject to relate to.  But while a cerebral connection to the past is critical for my subjective identity, and the central nervous system is the experiential instrument of my cognizance, it represents only the "being adjunct" in my being-aware.  Like all the other "external" objects of my subjective reality, my physiological body—including its brain and neurological components—is an objectivized construct rather than the "essence of me". 

Even more counter-intuitive is the idea that the brain could be the cognizant source of everything in the universe, including not only the planet that is our habitat but the whole panoply of stars and galaxies extending millions of light years out in space.  Although neuro-physiologists claim to have mapped most of the brain's known functions over the last hundred years, there remain large regions of this complex organ whose exact functions have yet to be discovered.  It is at least conceivable that these undefined areas are responsible for intellection of the dimensional aspects of material reality.  This would not represent an extraordinary cerebral feat, considering that we are also aware of existing within a space/time world in the brain's dream state.  (The difference here, of course, is that what we are aware of doing in the dream world does not affect our shared experience of the "real" world.) 

But if my cognizant awareness is dependent on embedded neural patterns and my feelings are derived from sensory experience of an other, then what is the real me?  The answer can only be that it is all of the above—with Value at its core.  Stripped of its content, the awareness that we each identify as our proprietary self is metaphysically nothing.

The metaphysical concept of the "no-self" or negate does not impugn societal individualism.  One of the fundamental differences between Christians and Buddhists revolves around the notion of selfness.  For Christians, the existence of a personal self is not only self-evident, but a vital part of their philosophy and theology.  For Buddhists, however, there is ultimately no self either in human beings or in anything else.  "There is no flower in the flower," the Dalai Lama once said.  Essentially, the Buddhists have embraced the Cusan "not other" without resorting to logical syllogisms.

Closely allied to the idea of the no-self is the concept of duality or non-duality.  Christians appear to be dualists, believing in a supreme God and in individual souls, while Buddhists are non-dualists.  The property of selfness is rooted in common experience and supported by philosophical and theological traditions from the early Greek philosophers and biblical scripture.  I exist.  I am not you.  I am not God.  The tree is not me.  In short, we live in a world of distinct, albeit interconnected, beings.  Buddhists draw on an equally venerable tradition, but it is not philosophical or theological in the Western sense of these words, but rather a reflection on experiences born out of deep meditation.

In any case, since the reality of your experience is by and large the same reality experienced by every observer, and the physical laws apply with equal constancy to all objective experience, for practical purposes does it really matter whether the differential mediation of reality is an integral or an extraneous phenomenon?  It is only when we attempt to extend knowledge beyond the practical concerns of our finite life-experience, such as in cosmological exploration or ontological analysis, that we run into difficulty.  And the problems encountered in these intellectual quests clearly demonstrate that our "common sense view" is fundamentally flawed.

What needs to be emphasized here is that nothingness is not a void in reality, like the proverbial "crack in the cosmic egg"; rather, it is a gap or discontinuity in subjective awareness—the nothingness that perceives multiform being by virtue of the fact that it is non-being.  By cultural conditioning and intellectual habit, we as negates project our nothingness across the face of Otherness, establishing the boundaries of the "discrete particulars" that constitute the continuous flow of our experience.  Exactly where we draw the line can be as arbitrary as the snapshot definitions we invent for material reality.  This is vividly illustrated in Tom Nehrer's "flowing stream" analogy, which I have extracted below from his web site.

If I speak to you of a stream, you will immediately picture the flow of water through a natural setting. ... But where is the boundary, the specific edge, that sets a stream apart from what is not stream?  Water, from rain, daily condensation, or underground flow from higher elevations seeps through the soil in a fairly constant flow.  It travels from a greater saturation to a lesser, and heads downhill until its molecules join with many others on their trek.  And that journey might lead to the ocean, or shortcut out via evaporation. ...So the question is: what is a stream?  At what instant does the seeping molecule suddenly become stream?  Is it a part of the stream as it begins its downhill drift, having just fallen as rain?  Or is [it] only "groundwater" then, and becomes stream stuff just as it passes over the last grain of dirt and catches the flow of all the other molecules?  Likewise, when does it cease to be stream material?  If a fish drinks it, does it immediately become fish stuff and no longer stream—or is the fish, along with suspended sand and minerals, part of the stream, or just a thing in the stream?  Well, all of that, looked at closely, is answered by your—or somebody's—definition.  In reality, there is no boundary.  The flow is continuous, and what you call a stream is just a portion of the interrelated Oneness that consists of water passing through many apparent forms and different media.14

Students of embryology will recognize in this analogy a remarkably apt simile for the development of biological life, one that with slight modification might shed some light on the paramount ethical question currently before the Nation's courts: When does (a human) life begin?  But Nehrer's theme is the essential continuity or "homologous nature" of existential reality; considered in that context, nothingness as an apparent boundary separating things and events from each other seems to have less cosmic significance than nothingness as it relates to the individual's coming and going in the world.  Knowing that this differential boundary is all that separates us from the Absolute Whole may be comforting.  But it also leads us back to the cosmic truth that each self springs from the same nothingness to which it ultimately returns, taking with it the provisional world of that particular life-experience.  Thus, we all confront the quandary outlined roughly below.

Whatever my eternal reality, it is mine already.  For the future can neither add nor detract from what is eternal.

But I do not know the reality of my being.  It is a nothingness to me.

If nothingness, then, is the essence of my reality, how do I gain something?  How do I breach this nothingness and become a part of Being?  Or is the part of Being that is me also nothing?

The urgency of that question, pondered in Hamlet's soliloquy, is the angst each of us feels as a condition of our free existence.  The simple answer, of course, is that there is no eternal reality—that nothingness says it all.

This may be true insofar as individual memory and self-awareness are concerned—and these faculties define what is apperceived in the space/time world as the "I" of cognitive existence.  Yet, it is also true that, as the negate of an eternal Essence, existential cognizance is in reality a conditional form of that Essence, hence, must have an unconditional complement that has been temporarily cut off from sensibility, leaving only an empty space/time grid on which to intellectualize its estranged value.  Since, in Essence, nothing is lost (literally and metaphysically)—therein lies our hope for immortality.  Alas, this is also where religion and philosophy have always been at odds.  For Essence is infinite and unconditional, whereas man and his values are finite and conditional, and the difference between them is a seemingly impenetrable nothingness.

Mindful of man's natural mortality but unwilling to accept his spiritual demise, theologians have historically promulgated dogmas predicated on the "soul" as a transcendent human element.  By the power of faith alone—belief in things hoped for but unseen—religious doctrines have convinced a majority of the world's population that human beings are spared personal oblivion by becoming spirit creatures, reaping their eternal rewards or punishments, as appropriate, in the company of an ever-expanding host of "departed souls".  The philosopher wants something more.  He seeks to liberate his thinking from its provisional bonds, but he lacks the necessary tools.  Western Philosophers, for their part, have stretched logical syllogisms to argue either for or against the permanence of Being per se.  In truth, both are dealing with unknowns for which positive proof is unattainable.  The non-theistic philosophies of the East appear to have overcome empirical dualism.  Perhaps there is wisdom in the mystical approach that seeks to transcend rationality and reach a higher truth.

I am persuaded—not by mysticism but by intuition—that something approximating a soul is intrinsic to each of us.  I think of the soul as the "transcendent essence" of man which, while attached to finitude, denies or "forgets" its eternal identity and is realizable only as the core awareness [psyche] in want of its complementary value.  Only when individuated awareness has negated all perceptible "otherness" as a value-matrix configured to its own unique sensibilities does the soul then "awaken" to its primary identity.

The cardinal principle of Essentialism is that Essence is immutable, that there is a "clean break" between the unity of Essence and the differentiated world of proprietary awareness.  The significance of this principle is that the specificity of conscious sensibilia, including qualitative values like Goodness, Love, and Beauty, as well as the "dynamic" or functional constructs by which experiential entities are objectivized—such as Nothingness, Beingness, Difference, Identity, Rationality, Numerality, Materiality, Consciousness, Humanity, Morality, Evolution, and Process—are not identifiable with the uncreated source.  All such intellectualized precepts are specific to finite experience and are therefore not directly transferable to Essence.  Thus, any philosophy that is founded on an existential attribute or property as opposed to a primary, undifferentiated source cannot logically claim metaphysical transcendence.

But immutability is a two-edged sword; for not only is uncreated Essence immutable, so is the individuality of human sensibility.  Just as the identity of Essence is irreducible and cannot be transferred to another entity, neither can individual self-awareness.  We cannot have our cake and eat it too.  We cannot be a "piece" of Essence—a part of what is already absolute—and at the same time possess Essence.  As negates of the Whole, our experience is only an infinitesimal look at the infinite.  Although my perspective of the world has a "commonality" with yours, if the borrowed being that is responsible for my reality is eliminated, I am reduced to the nothingness that is the "I" of my proprietary awareness.  This identity constitutes my desires, my values, my free will—all of which are absolutely my own.  The only way I can share my private world with someone else is by verbal description.  So that, despite the "universality" of empirical knowledge and the fact that we are all human beings, the reality experience is unique for each individual. 

 

 

 

5.  Value is our eternal link with Essence.

 

Life is in many ways an adventure in polarity.  Not only is our experience of the natural world made up of attributes and properties that range from beginning to end, small to large, high to low, cold to hot, bright to dark, loud to soft, bitter to sweet, etc., but like the cosmic balance depicted by the Taoist Yin-yang symbol, our response to experience also may be characterized as bipolar.  Thus, we are drawn toward "positive" experiences that reward our awareness with pleasure, and tend to avoid the "negatives".  Males are normally attracted to females, and vice-versa.  We are all inspired by beauty, courage and goodness but repulsed by ugliness, weakness and evil.  And, every so often, we experience something of such grandeur or joy that it virtually overwhelms us.  These emotional responses express the values we are continually discovering and with which we identify throughout our lives.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, says the poet; but objectively it is only skin deep.  Man's affinity for Value, whether it be Beauty, Truth, or merely personal achievement, demonstrates his ability to discriminate and is compelling evidence of his transcendental nature.  But Value is in the perception rather than the object: it does not exist independently of the observer, yet its realization requires an observable otherness.  We can best understand Value as the difference between subjective awareness and objective beingness.  As such, Value holds together what Primary Essence actualizes as a dichotomy, making it the counterforce, so to speak, of negation.  Just as, in the existential world, the subject "borrows from being" in order to become a being-aware, being itself  (i.e., physical reality) is a conscious representation of Value as differentiated by the intellect.  Absent cognizant awareness and there is neither value nor the valuistic experience of an external reality.

In an essay entitled "Why I became a panexperientialist," Charles Birch poses a question that an Essentialist would find rhetorical: "Is there some extra value in having consciousness as well as the appropriate reactions to the environment?  No one has given a satisfactory answer to this question."  Extra value indeed!  Let's consider the alternative.  Let's imagine a world in which there is no consciousness, a relational universe in which entities and organisms evolve and adapt systemically in Darwinian fashion by genetic transfer of "intelligence" and according to Newtonian principles.  Let us suppose further that one or more of the organisms evolving by this process of natural selection develops the capability to utilize intelligence in a highly complex way.  Through this intellectual faculty, it organizes a community of like organisms to plan, build, and maintain a techno-social system, including an information base containing the laws and principles which it has "detected" about its world.  Conceivably, this robotic creature might establish a civilization with an infrastructure very much like ours—except that it has no conscious awareness of itself or the significance of its achievement.  What would be the value of such a system?  What possible meaning or purpose would this automatic evolution toward "betterness" or "organic complexity" serve?  How could such a sophisticated order of being even be discerned, let alone valued, in the absence of awareness?  Sensible awareness is a primary value.  And, as beings-aware, we all sense the value of "beingness" that is our physical reality.  Our desire to live is actually predicated on these two values; we cling to life because we realize that without it we would lose this awareness of being—our most tangible asset.

The reciprocity of Desire and Value offers a poignant topic for philosophical discourse.  Spinoza actually defined Desire as "the essence of man"; Nietzsche and Schopenhauer chose Free Will to express man's essential nature.  It remained for the vitalist philosophers of the twentieth century to postulate reality as a valuistic dualism.  The vitalists formulated Axiology as "the science of value".   The name is derived from two Greek roots— 'axios' (worth or value) and 'logos' (logic or theory)—thus designating a value theory.  As a science, however, the theory falls short of recognizing the metaphysical significance of man's value sensibility.

Man is a rational organism, an alien in a reality that is essentially non-rational.  Reality encompasses him, but he cannot encompass reality.  All he can do is structure it in terms of his own rationality.  James Fletcher Baxter calls this the Human Paradigm: "Human knowledge is a fraction of the whole universe.  The balance is a vast void of human ignorance.  Human reason cannot fully function in such a void; thus, the intellect can rise no higher than the criteria by which it perceives and measures values."14

It is entirely appropriate, therefore, that in our post-modern era the first serious confrontation with Value should occur within the field of cosmology itself.  As early as 1927, a group of leading nuclear physicists gathered in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss an epistemological dilemma involving Einstein's new Quantum Theory.  Radiation experiments conducted to obtain a working model of atomic behavior were yielding contradictory results; paradoxically, they confirmed that radiant energy (photons) behaved both as particles and as beams of light.  The principal conference speaker, Neils Bohr, presented a paper outlining a theory of "Complementarity" that he hoped would resolve the issue; instead it offended Einstein and provoked a life-long dispute between the author and his closest colleague, Werner Heisenberg.

Qualitative or non-statistical Value is "subjective", of course, and still unwelcome in the vernacular of science; but the late Robert M. Pirsig (1928–2017), who authored two autobiographical novels based on his Metaphysics of Quality (MoQ), believed this was a mistake that has hampered the development of a workable scientific philosophy.  In 1995, sixty-eight years after the ill-fated nuclear meeting, this former English professor and self-styled anthropologist was invited to submit a plenary session paper at a follow-up conference on "the Meeting of Art and Science".  Pirsig's presentation, Subjects, Objects, Data and Values, reflects so incisively on the metaphysical implications of the Bohr/Heisenberg debate that I have taken the liberty of quoting at length from it here.

 

Heisenberg was satisfied that the mathematical solution, matrix mechanics, gave all the understanding of atomic systems that was needed. Verbal pictures of what was going on were not necessary. ...If the mathematics works who needs the philosophy?  But Bohr did not agree at all with this view.  Bohr saw that the quantum theory's mathematical formulation had to have a connection to the cultural world of everyday life in which the experiments were performed.  If that connection were not made there would be no way to run an experiment that would prove whether a quantum prediction was true or not. ...Yet as I read through the material even I could see that this was not primarily a quarrel about physics, it was about metaphysics.  And I saw that others had noted that too. ...It is only in the last hundred years or so that our measurements are showing that the objects we are studying are apparently impossible.  Since the phenomena from the measurements are not about to change, Bohr concluded that the logic of science must change to accommodate them. ...This view, known as phenomenalism, says that what we really observe is not the object. What we really observe is only data. ...Bohr's Complementarity was accused of being subjectivistic.  If the world is composed of subjects and objects, and if Bohr says the properties of the atom are not in the objects, then Bohr is saying that the properties of the atom are in the subject.  But if there is one thing science cannot be it is subjective. ...In the Metaphysics of Quality the world is composed of three things: mind, matter and Quality. ...Quality is not a thing. It is an eventIt is the event at which the subject becomes aware of the object.  The most striking similarity between the Metaphysics of Quality and Complementarity is that this Quality event corresponds to what Bohr means by ''observation".  When the Copenhagen Interpretation "holds that the unmeasured atom is not real, that its attributes are created in the act of measurement," it is saying something very close to the Metaphysics of Quality.  The observation creates the reality.16

 

I'm reminded that Mr. Pirsig chose Quality to name the main "event" in his cosmological trilogy after a theme assignment from his teaching days.  Although the word avoids confusion that might arise from a quantitative interpretation of Value—the only one that science acknowledges—its use here could not have been precautionary because the peripatetic author of ZEN and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance had developed his Metaphysics of Quality long before addressing the scientific dispute.  "Values" does appear in the title of Pirsig's paper; but its main use is to identify various "pattern levels" that constitute his Quality hierarchy.  And as that usage is in the context of assigning relative weight or worth to particular levels, it must be regarded as a quantitative reference.

The choice of terms is inconsequential, however, as the author himself acknowledges: "If one accepts that Value, or Quality, gained from experience is the fundamental building block of reality, the contradictions disappear and enlightenment begins."  Pirsig maintained that his MoQ "...follows empirical tradition in saying that the senses are the starting point of reality, but—all importantly—it includes a sense of value. ...In the past this biological sense of value has been called 'subjective' because these values cannot be located in an external physical object.  But quantum theory has destroyed the idea that only properties located in external physical objects have reality."15  Since Pirsig considers Quality "the primary empirical reality of the world", he should have no quarrel with my substitution of "Value" for "Quality" in this adaptation of his thesis.  (The two lesser MoQ entities, "mind" and "matter", are analogous to my Self and Other, respectively.)  As for those who would argue that theories having to do with quantum particles do not apply to our everyday experience of a "concrete" world, a current Physics textbook might be in order.

In a "quantitative sense" it could be said that things are valued in proportion to the extent that they serve to fill the provisional void in being-aware.  The proportionality or specific value-sense profile will necessarily differ from subject to subject.  Ontologically speaking, Value is the "end" to which Desire is the "means".  The value-deprived self is continually seeking closure by identifying with its negational source.  Confined to the sensibilia of a finite organism, man reaches out to otherness for an affirmation of his being.  From the conditional perspective, this is sensed as the desire to affirm one's own being—or well-being, as the case may be.  In desiring "being" for oneself, the individual serves to bring Value into the world.

To desire is to appreciate the value of what is not ours by virtue of our specific existential condition or perspective.  Socrates put it this way: "...the man who desires something desires what is not available to him, and what he doesnΉt already have in his possession; and what he neither has nor himself is—that which he lacks—this is what he wants and desires."  In realizing our own being, finite objects have value to us by their capacity to fulfill specific sensual desires.  Salt is desired for its saltiness, for example; this is a value sensed on the tongue rather than a property intrinsic to a crystal of sodium chloride.  In addition to the values of organic sensibilia, Truth, Beauty, and Freedom are often cited as belonging to a class of esthetic or "intellectual" values that are highly regarded because they represent a uniquely human connection with the cosmos.

At its primal level, Desire exemplifies the principle of self-preservation and survival of the species; the apperceived values are physical sustenance, personal security, sexual fulfillment, social (tribal) power or influence, and some hope of immortality.  Psycho-emotional or esthetic desire may be expressed as intellectual curiosity, unrequited or altruistic love, or a passion for the arts, the anticipated values being the expansion of knowledge and personal pleasure or contentment.  Value tends to assuage Desire by its promise of self-sufficiency; so that, while relative values differ for each individual, the Highest Value may be universally construed as the elevation of one's "personal being" from the conditional to the absolutist state.  Alienated from the essence of our reality, we instinctively seek the security of an identity grounded in being, and most of life's pursuits are attempts to bridge the gap between proprietary awareness and universal being.  In short, we are all found wanting: as Sartre put it, "we want the being of the other for ourselves".

Here is how the poet Rumi romanticized this concept:

As God put Desire in man and woman to the end that the world should be preserved by their union, so hath he implanted in every part of existence the desire for another part.

But because the possibility of being other is negated [think of it as "inverted" to other-being] in the process of becoming aware, being is always manifested appositionally to the self; we can never reclaim it as proprietary in the sense that our physicality is proprietary.  Instead, what typically passes for gratification in the life-experience—e.g., wealth, possessions, and the power to manipulate or control the other—ultimately proves to be fleeting and unsatisfying.  This is because human Desire is fixated on being as its value object, whereas true Value can be derived only through the realization of Essence.

What, then, is this Value or qualitative property that appeals to desire and that (according to Pirsig) "...is the event at which awareness of both subjects and objects is made possible"?  We have used the terms Value and Essence synonymously to characterize the nature of the Primary Source; but undifferentiated Essence can have no properties.  Value cannot be an exclusive attribute of the subjective self, because it is realizable only as associated with otherness.  Nor can it be an exclusive property of the objective Other which lacks sensibility.  Logical reduction leads to the conclusion that Value is shared provisionally by both essents.  Metaphysically, Value is the complementary Essence lost to the negate at creation but incrementally realizable through the individuated subject's (secondary) negation of experiential being.

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           ESSENCE AND THE NEGATE CYCLE

The co-dependency of Value as an existential property may explain why Pirsig insists on referring to it as an "event".  "Quality" [translated as 'Value', ibid] is not just the result of a collision between subject and object," he says; "...The very existence of subject and object themselves is deduced from the Value event.  The Value event is the cause of the subjects and objects, which are then mistakenly presumed to be the cause of Value!" [ZMM, chpt. 19]  In other words, Value is the primary stimulus that triggers both our qualitative sense of reality and its objectification as the cognitive experience of discrete objects and events.  Ultimately, all of the essence-value contained in the negate is restored to sensibility.  At this point there is no further need for differentiation or the nothingness from which it arises.  The not-other self is reunited with its provisionally denied otherness as Value realized, and the negate's value-sense is reabsorbed into the "absolute fullness that admits of no other than itself. "10

It would appear that the primacy of Value in human perception has been scientifically validated by brain researchers.  At a meeting of the World Economic Forum in 2000, Dr. Semir Zeki, Professor of Neurobiology at University College of London, reported that "...The Platonic tradition has encouraged philosophers to look for a unified theory of knowledge, but the results of imaging research pointed to the opposite being the reality. . . .

Research shows that our perception of color and movement correspond to activity in different areas of the brain.  Moreover there is a hierarchy of perception, rather than a unity of perception. We perceive color before form and before motion.  (We do not perceive a thing in itself, but rather its qualities—the brain then synthesizes these different perceptions.)  The brain's ability is in abstracting information, which makes it a very efficient intelligence-gathering system—it does not have to remember everything it experiences.  The Platonic ideal—or what it is that can be known—can now be defined in neurological terms as the synthesis of all the experiences the brain has had." 17

Inasmuch as Cognizance/Being [Pirsig's subject/object] represents the negated or relational mode of Essence, and experienced sensibilia are the result of a second negation, it can be said that both Cognizance and Value are rooted in Essence, albeit "twice removed" from the primary source.  The individuated self with its appropriated body can freely shape its life-experience in the knowledge that undifferentiated value is the common denominator.  Personal tastes and proclivities reflect the status of one's psycho-emotional "conditioning" at any given time; it is these factors which, although different for each individual, determine whether we feel an experience as "good", "bad" or "indifferent".  And the net effect of these evaluations over a lifetime is to establish a Value Complement which defines and affirms our essential identity.  The fact that desire is preferential for each observer means that no two individuals will have the same exact Value Complement—a significant system variable that may play a collective role in shaping physical reality.  Noted ethicist and educator Dr. Robert Rue emphasizes that “Values are the essence of who we are as human beings.  Our values get us out of bed every morning, help us select the work we do, the company we keep, the relationships we build, and ultimately, the groups and organizations that we lead.  Our values influence every decision and move we make, even to the point of how we choose to make our decisions."

Were it not possible to discriminate esthetically, morally and analytically in our experience, Value would not exist in the relational sense.  The fact that man alone has this ability elevates him above all other creatures and places "derivation of Value" foremost among the attributes of human nature.  The teleological significance of man's capacity to evaluate experience will become clearer as we examine the nature of our relationship with the material world.  But it should be apparent from this analysis that man's sensibility is enhanced by a "value-added" function in the differentiated world of experience—namely, the unique capacity to form a conscious link with Essence.

We experience essent-value (that is, the value of sensible phenomena) whenever we become absorbed in the experience of a particular sensation or event—the color orange, for example, or hearing a beloved piece of music.  On occasion this absorption can be so complete as to momentarily overcome and displace [negate] self-consciousness.  Although the "pure" value of Essence [Essential Value] cannot be directly experienced, we are cognizant of it when we merge our perspective with the Whole of Nature rather than focusing on its fragments, when we contemplate the Freedom afforded by our individual perspective instead of lamenting our existential condition, or when we allow ourselves to be awed by the beauty and harmony of the cosmos.  In such precious moments we transcend the effects of negation and are enriched in an affirmation of our essential nature.  What is this realization if not the Value of Essence?

Buddhists refer to this state of mind as "desirelessness"; psychologically, it may be described as a kind of transference in which the "I" factors [id and ego] are pacified, enabling us to identify directly with the value of what is experienced.  A discipline of meditation may be an intellectual approach to Value realization through the practice of freeing oneself from "egocentric designs" on experienced objects and focusing instead on pure sensibility.  The psychic state of nirvana, for example, has been described by Zen disciples as a mergence with the Consciousness of God in which the sense of localized 'I' disappears.

One of the marvels of existential reality is that it is an organized, self-sustained system rather than chaos.  The exquisitely balanced cosmos with its precise planetary orbits, seasonal changes, and life cycles suggests a choreographed universe that is imbued with the perfection of its uncreated negational source.  Indeed, the conformity of creation mirrors the integrity of the Creator.  That a cosmic template with the power to replicate a dynamic image of an entire universe in three-dimensional detail could be implanted within the mind of each of us is a miracle beyond human comprehension.  This is undeniably the handiwork of a higher intelligence that can only be attributed to Essence—the uncreated Source of all Value.

Perhaps because their work is at the edge of physical reality, cosmologists seem to have an especially keen eye for "purpose" in the cosmic design which they see as relevant to man's values.  Australian astrophysicist Paul Davies, for example, says: "The universe looks as if it is unfolding according to some plan or blueprint.  The input is the cosmic initial conditions, and the output is organized complexity, or depth.  The essential feature is that something of value emerges as the result of processing according to some ingenious pre-existing set of rules.  These rules look as if they are the product of intelligent design.  My own inclination is to suppose that qualities such as ingenuity, economy, beauty, and so on have a genuine transcendent reality--they are not merely the product of human experience--and that these qualities are reflected in the structure of the natural world."18

Since we are all observers of the same ultimately pure Essence, there is a universal ground for experience.  Our subjective cognizance of this space/time universe is shared in common: there is general agreement about its dynamics and finite attributes, even though the values experienced will vary according to our individual sensibilities.  Thus, except for Value, the difference between your perspective and mine is not essential difference but only conditional.  The fact that you and I can look at an object, recognize it as having identical properties, and fashion it to our mutual needs demonstrates the universal correspondence of human experience that makes civilization possible.  Yet, it is the value of that experience which makes life worthwhile and unique for each of us; Value is the Essence of experience that endures far longer than the specious details.  Ultimately, it is our identification with a unique and distinct Value Complement that closes the gap of nothingness and affirms our essential Oneness.   This complementary union of human sensibility with Absolute Essence is called hypostasis by theologians in their attempt to explain the divinity of Christ as a "God-man".  But are we not all an incarnation of the divine?

Indeed, the cultivation and nurturing of experientially derived value is what human existence is all about, and it is what sustains us as a civilized society.  Fundamental to this process is belief in the sanctity of the individual.  All "enlightened" societies have recognized this principle: it is the underlying tenet of the Golden Rule and the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the inspiration behind countless social reforms, not the least of which began as a declaration of man's equality by America's Founding Fathers.  The survival of civilization in a peaceful world is contingent upon man's respect for "Freedom" and the value-sense that is every individual's conscious potential. 

 

 

6.  Freedom is our capacity to realize Value autonomously.   

 

Although individual freedom is commonly taken for granted in a democratic society, it is a relatively new concept in the history of mankind.  Even today, the sociological significance of freedom has been largely ignored, while its teleological meaning remains a mystery.  There is evidence of a creeping disregard in our society for the value of freedom, along with widespread abdication of the personal responsibilities needed to ensure its viability.  Philosophers seem more concerned with the problem of substantiating Free Will in a deterministic cause-and-effect universe, while the common citizen has come to believe that the exercise of individual freedom means demonstrating for more "civil rights".

Democracy does not owe its historical successes to a religious belief system, pluralistic altruism, or humanistic ethics.  Most democracies emerge as grass roots populist movements aspiring to national representation, as opposed to the imposition of state authority by autocratic decree.  What is unique about democracy as a concept of self-governance is that it is founded on the principle of Individual Freedom and is empowered by consent of the governed.  But the freedom of a nation isn't free.  It is bought through the hard-won struggle of enlightened individuals who know its value and will sacrifice their lives to preserve it, and it is maintained by a citizenry that is ever vigilant to protect it from those whose public apathy, geopolitical envy, religious fanaticism, or abuse of power threaten its downfall.  We need to be reminded that Freedom evolves and can flourish only when the self-control necessary for developing individual responsibility can be fully exercised; which is why it is least likely to blossom in societies where human behavior remains subservient to external authority or the vicissitudes of Nature.

The brilliant Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana, who spent half of his 89-year life observing this country, left us with an oft-quoted but seldom heeded  maxim: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."  By continuing to neglect the lessons of history—in civil service as well as in the classroom—we run the perilous risk of seeing this prophecy fulfilled in our lifetime.  In the interest of America's future, I would add a caveat of my own: A free society is not immune to the laws of gravity; left to its own devices it runs downhill.

When an advanced industrial country acquires the means to satisfy all material needs, it can give rise to a dispirited society that pleasures itself in a reckless abandonment of its moral responsibilities.  Social apathy, ignorance, and materialistic greed plant the seeds of a cancer that threatens the life of any nation dedicated to the liberty of its people, and it is most endemic to a secularist society.  Professor John Danford describes this incipient malady and its warning signs in the Preface to his Roots of Freedom: "A free society requires order, and order depends on restraint: yet it seems that the only kind of restraint compatible with genuine freedom is self-restraint.  Thus a free society cannot long exist if its citizens do not consider self-restraint a virtue.  And the twentieth century has given us ample reason for concern about this most difficult requirement. ...The hedonism of individual pleasure-seeking, the sense that there is no limit to what is permitted in the name of individual fulfillment or 'actualization', the disappearance of any sense of obligations—these are early warnings of a free society's decay."19

In an age that no longer regards personal freedom as a luxury, man still clings tenaciously to his pagan roots, as Rose Wilder Lane eloquently pointed out in The Discovery of Freedom, first published over half a century ago.

Very few men have ever known that men are free.  Among this earth's population now, few know that fact.  For six thousand years at least, a majority has generally believed in pagan gods.  A pagan god, whatever it is called, is an Authority which (men believe) controls the energy, the acts, and therefore the fate of all individuals.  The pagan view of the universe is that it is static, motionless, limited, and controlled by an Authority ...that all individuals are, and by their nature should and must be, controlled by some Authority outside themselves. ...[But] a time comes when every normal man is a responsible human being.  His energy creates a part of the whole human world of his time.  He is free; he is self-controlling and responsible, because he generates his energy and controls it.  No one and nothing else can control it.20

As a metaphysical principle, individual freedom is the miracle of human life.  But if man is really free, why doesn't he know this instinctivelyFor the answer to that question, we must once again change our perspective.  We must try to imagine how man is viewed from the perspective of his Creator.

As if designed for a purpose, the physical world is abundant with evidence of a "master plan".  It is a self-sustained system in which every thing and event not only has a proper time and place but a causal relationship with the Whole.  And yet, while man is delivered into this world meticulously packaged and fully equipped for life, no instructions are included.  Existence is an individuated reality whose soul (essence) is conscious sensibility, and we are "on our own" in this life.  If there is a divine purpose or meaning for this singular journey through space/time, it is oddly hidden from the creature who stands most to benefit from it.  Does it not seem reasonable that the providential architect of this wondrously crafted universe would have left us with at least a clue to that purpose?  The absence of such a clue has given atheists cause to reject both the divinity and the purpose.

But let us suppose that the Creator in his/her infinite wisdom so designed the world that each creature would have the privilege of living its own reality, guided by its own unique perspective, free of the restrictions that knowledge "beyond the experience" would impose on its attitudes and behavior.  Supposing, further, that the free expression allowed the individual in his innocence, and the attendant realization of values not otherwise possible, were the very purpose of the Master Plan.  Given this scenario, it should come as no surprise that the tree of knowledge should not only be forbidden but so well concealed that even the wisest of creatures would be at a loss to discover it.  In deference to the atheists, I submit that the "missing clue" is our assurance of individual Freedom, that the inscrutability of life's meaning confirms the teleological nature of our experienced world.

The poet who was moved to exclaim, "Ignorance is bliss!" probably did not intend to reveal a cosmic principle; yet, consider the alternative.  If you were suddenly granted the key to all knowledge, including the origin, meaning and destiny of your life—complete with a timetable—would it be a gift or a curse?  Would you be content with the prospect of never having to make a choice, feel surprise, or ponder an unknown fate?  Or would this wisdom reduce your life-experience to that of a robotized creature, automatically running its prescribed course under the control of an external source?

We test the integrity of our Freedom whenever we act on a conscious decision.  Would that decision have been different had we known that it was predetermined by the laws of cause-and-effect?   That the outcome of our decisions may be plotted on a logic tree and, in retrospect, be shown to have been "foreordained by Nature" does not affect our freedom to choose in the first instance, any more than electrical stimulation of the gray matter of our cerebral cortex affects our freedom to act.

Self-awareness and one's personal destiny are inexorably linked not by immutable laws of quantum physics but by immanent values that are open to individual assessment and free choice of action.  The beauty of this ontology is that it allows for a synergistic relationship between the Absolute Source in its purity and the finite self in its innocence.

Relative to Absolute Essence, the individual life would appear to have very little value.  "The soul knows about everything but itself," Eckhart said; yet " ...within itself the soul is free, innocent of all instrumentalities and ideas."  If man did not enter the world an innocent creature—if his knowledge were not limited—he would not be free to shape his reality or realize its values.  Finite reality is a "work in progress" whose outcome is largely determined by how we view it and what we choose to make of it.  This anthropocentric universe is not fixed, either by natural law or logical constraints; it is molded by and subject to the prevailing attitudes and apperceived values of a "collective awareness" that includes the cognizance of free creatures responsible for their own actions.  Likewise, cosmological truth is not bound by the empirical "proofs" that support our common illusion of an objective reality.

That illusion ends, as it begins, with a negation.  As an incremental negate of its estranged source, the individual cannot exist beyond the conditions of finitude.  Instead, having rounded the negate cycle, the individuated self surrenders its 'I'-ness—conditional being and existential awareness—completely to otherness, thereby revoking its negated status and reclaiming its essent-value.  For each of us, the act of dying represents the supreme sacrifice because it terminates the egocentricity needed for the continuity of individuated "selfness" through its transitory existence.  Since concern about loss of selfness accounts for most of the fear we associate with death, it behooves us to remember that the truly meaningful experiences and greatest joys in life are those in which we lose ourselves.

We observe some loss of selfness in persons suffering from advanced Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders.  But the final negation is neither amnesia nor the impairment of a lingering organism.  Death is a cosmic event, merciful in its completeness, and capable of redeeming Desire in the sense that (for want of a better analogy) the "lover" and the "love object" are reunited in what must approximate a divine consummation.  This union is infallible because the soul of every creature is in reality the Essence of the Creator.  Again, who but Eckhart could have put it so simply?

Further, I say that if the soul is to know God, it must forget itself and lose itself. ...But when, for God's sake, it becomes unself-conscious and lets go of everything, it finds itself again in God; for knowing God, it therefore knows itself and everything else from which it has been cut asunder, in the divine perfection.11

 

 

What are we to make of these unconventional concepts and postulates?

Philosophy is the ongoing quest of those who refuse to take life at face value but whose intellectual curiosity is open to new paths of enlightenment.  If you accept without reservation the idea that the material world of your experience is the only reality there is, and that your self-awareness and values have evolved as products of that world, then Essentialism is not for you.  Otherwise, you are the best judge as to whether the concepts suggested here represent a vital and meaningful philosophy.  You may of course choose to dismiss the enigma of your existence on the premise that life presents far too many practical problems without having to take on an "impractical" one.  Perhaps you have concluded that your religious conviction is a sufficient guide to the life experience and can see no need of further insight.  Or, you may be persuaded that belief in an Absolute Creator is an outmoded nostrum in a universe that can be explained by the laws of physics.  As a free agent, the choice is yours to make.

The fact that subjectivity is essential to any reality concept keeps philosophy alive in an era when "valid research" generally implies that the proprietary human perspective has been conveniently removed from the objects of investigation.  It is a fundamental precept of Essentialism that facts and laws are meaningless without cognizant sensibility.  But anthropocentricity based on a philosophy of immanent Essence must earn the respect of society—including the scientific community—if it is to contend favorably with prevailing ideologies.  The ethics and teachings of Judeo-Christian morality have made their mark on the Western World, despite an erosion of theological dogma.  Our culture has maintained token respect for the basic concepts of freedom and the brotherhood of man.  What it lacks is the psycho-emotional impetus to internalize these values at the individual level.  Essentialism answers that need by positing human freedom as the divine gift whereby we may each realize Value as the Essence of our reality.

It is said that the beginning of wisdom is discovering what one can not know.  The causes and conditions that bring the universe into existence certainly fall within the category of the unknowable.  Our valuistic philosophy is even more presumptive: it vindicates the inaccessibility of Absolute Truth as consistent with the principle of Individual Freedom.  To the extent that any theory of creation is hypothetical, my Cosmology of Essence will be viewed with skepticism—especially by those schooled in the methods of empirical science.  Bear in mind that the body of human knowledge accumulated to date has failed to produce incontrovertible proof for any theory purporting to explain creation or the primary cause of existence.

Since it appears that cosmological truth is denied us absolutely, life may be viewed as a gamble in which the individual is free to choose.  I leave you with the stakes as Pascal saw them: "Let us weigh the gain and loss in choosing 'heads' that God is.  Let us weigh the two cases: if you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.  Wager then unhesitatingly that He is."

 

 

 

 

 

     Special Acknowledgments:

[1]  The Philadelphia Inquirer, CURRENTS Section, January 25, 2004; Making Up Our Minds; John Timpane

[2]  Reuters, June 9, 2003; British Scientist Puts Odds for Apocalypse at 50-50; review of Our Final Hour; Martin Rees

[3]  Dictionary of Philosophy; Dagobert D. Runes, Editor; Littlefield, Adams & Co., 1962 edition

[4]  Determinism vs. Freedom; Valentin Turchin essay; Copyright© 2000 Principia Cybernetica

[5]  The New York Times, SCIENCE Section, April 4, 2000; "Cosmology" article including an interview with John A. Wheeler

[6]  DISCOVER, V. 23 No. 6, June 2002; Does the Universe Exist if We're Not Looking?; Tim Folger quotes Andrei Linde

[7]  Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See; Donald D. Hoffman (2004 quote); W.W.  Norton & Company, Inc., 1998

[8]  Scientific Essentialism; Brian Ellis et al; Cambridge University Press, April 2001

[9]  Philosophy East & West, V. 43 No. 1, Jan. 1993; A. V. Smirnov; Nicolas of Cusa and Ibn 'Arabi'; University of Hawaii Press

[10]  Human Knowledge and God in Cusanus' De docta ignorantia; Clyde Lee Miller essay; www.sunysb.edu/philosophy/new/

[11]  Meister Eckhart: A Modern Translation; Raymond Blakney; Harper Torchbooks, Harper & Row, 1941

[12}  Mindprints: Negation-Double negation, Comparison-Imparison; T. Avital essay; Mindprints 3; http://www.mi.sanu.ac.yu/

[13]  NATURE, March 8, 2001; A Measurement of Cosmological Mass from the 2dF Redshift Survey; John A. Peacock et al

[14]  The Essence of Reality; Thomas D. Nehrer "EoR" web site extract, quoted by permission of the author

[15]  Man the Choicemaker; James Fletcher Baxter essay; Copyright© 2004; http://www.choicemaker.net

[16]  Subjects, Objects, Data and Values; "Einstein meets Magritte" conference,  June 1995; R. M.  Pirsig presentation paper

[17]  It's All in the Brain; www.weforum.org/; ref: WEF Annual Meeting, January 2000; ©2003 World Economic Forum

 

[18]  On Purpose in the Universe; Paul Davies, from an interview posted at http://www.counterbalance.net/bio/davies-frame.html

[19]  Roots of Freedom: A Primer on Modern Liberty; John W. Danford; ISI Books, 2000

[20]  The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority; Rose Wilder Lane; Fox & Wilkes, reprint of 1943 edition

     "Digital Prayer Wheel"; designed by Steve Bennett; courtesy of Venerable Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche Homepage

     "Magic Rose"; background motif courtesy of http://expage. com/page/magicrose

     "The Creation of Adam"; Michelangelo; detail photograph courtesy of Twofold Photos, Inc.

     "The Thinker"; Rodin sculpture; photo copyright Bronze Direct, 1999

     Statue of Lady Justice; commissioned for the Williamsburg-James City Country Courthouse; John A. Lanzalotti Collection

 

 

GLOSSARY OF TERMS AND NAMES AS USED IN THIS THESIS

 

A priori — Generally, a term applied to judgments and principles whose validity is independent of all sense impressions. (My usage tends more toward first and necessary to, as in primary cause.)

Absolute — In a relational sense, the infinite cosmos in the totality of space and time. In Essentialist terms, the primary, undifferentiated (uncreated) source.

Actualization — The mode of Essence in which negated otherness becomes the appearance of diversified being from a 'zero point' perspective. Existence conceived as relational, oppositional, and valuistic within a space/time framework.

Anthropocentrism — A view of the world that regards human subjectivity as the central fact or final aim of the universe. Reality explained in terms of human values and experience.

Awareness — Proprietary or subjective sensibility, the purest form of which is distinct from self-consciousness, memory or experience.

Being — Any or all (negated) entities perceived as occupying time and space; otherness; beingness.

Beingness — The substantive property (quiddity) attributed by the intellect to objects of experience which makes them empirically credible as "real".

Cognizance — Consciousness of self and other as identities in time and space; intellectual or perceptual awareness.

Coincidence — In Cusan theory, the non-contradictory first principle [Essence] that represents absolute potentiality.

Cosmology — A branch of Metaphysics that deals with the universe and its relations as a structured or organized system; any hypothesis offered to explain such a system.

Creatio ex nihilo — Literally, creation out of nothing; the logical fallacy that is averted by positing an uncreated negational Source.

Creation — The formation of existence and its finite constituents, traditionally conceived as a cosmic event occurring at a specific point in time but understood by essentialists as a differential manifestation of the omnipresent negational mode of Essence.

Cusa, Nicholas of — 15th century Neo-Platonic philosopher and theologian whose writings influenced the development of Renaissance mathematics and science, and whose original thesis De li non-aliudOn the Not-other (1461) postulated an "ineffable unity" to which neither otherness nor multiplicity is opposed.

Delimitation — Cognitive or "secondary" negation; the process whereby the essent's value is differentiated by nothingness to produce conscious images of material phenomena; objectivization or "effectual intellection".

Descartes, Renι — 17th century French mathematician and philosopher whose widely lauded but logically flawed Cogito stated: "I think, therefore I am"..

Desire — The valuistic attraction which draws the psyche (soul) to various manifestations of Essence; on a primitive level, lust or greed directed toward or attached to a particular entity or class of being.

Determinism — A doctrine of limited freedom based on the notion that every act has an antecedent cause and predictable result.

Dichotomy — Duality; the cosmos theorized as consisting of two mutually exclusive components or parts.

Differentiation — The mode of finite sensibility; primary separation of Essence into proprietary Awareness and universal Being, i.e., Self vs. Other.

Eckhart, Johannes — 14th century German gnostic and Christian theologian accused by the Church of "Pantheism and other errors" in 1326.

Ego — The conscious, compulsive self which seeks control of its existence and the approval of others.

Empirical — Based on observation or experimental evidence.

Epiphany — In Christianity, an appearance or manifestation of God; a sudden spiritual insight, revelation, or "moment of clarity".

Epistemology — The branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, theory, structure and limits of knowledge.

Essence — The ultimate, unconditional, negational Source and/or "whatness" of reality; e.g., Absolute, Creator, God, Divine One, Supreme Identity, Quintessence; the perfect embodiment of Value which is the antithesis of metaphysical nothingness.

Essent — One of two contingent value-deprived "essences" created by the primary negation of Essence from which existence arises; proprietary awareness [not-other] or its existential value object [other]; any created entity.

Essent-value —)The conditional or contingent value of objectified being that is reclaimed in the experience of otherness.

Essential — Generally, that which is necessary or indispensable; in Essentialism, the absolute entity or Value that encompasses both sensibility and beingness.

Essentialism — The philosophy that Essence is the necessary a priori source and ultimate end of all existence, and that realization of its Value is man's reality.

Essential Value — The hypothetical "absolute value" of Essence which, metaphysically, equates to Essence Itself.

Existence — "Otherness"; the essent that is denied awareness and that represents "being" to the negate. In a general sense, the pluralistic physical world that is localized in time and space by intellectualized experience.

Existential — Pertaining to the relational world, especially as it concerns individual sensibilia; experiential; provisional.

Existentialism — The philosophy that Essence is the product [facticity] of becoming and that material existence is its cause. Typically, the philosophy of science.

Finitude — An order of magnitude less than infinite or absolute; the dimensional aspect of existence.

Freedom — The ability to choose one's actions in the context of an indeterminate reality; the provisional mode of existence necessary for the autonomous realization of Value.

Gnosticism — Belief in, and practice of, the intuitive acquisition of religious and philosophical truth.

God — In traditional religion, the name applied to a supernatural being. In Cusan logic, the divine "not other" that is not other than the (created) other.

Hegel, Georg Friedrich — Early 19th century German cosmologist whose dialectical method of "thesis-antithesis-synthesis" shaped his major philosophical work, Phenomenology of Mind, published in 1806.

Heidegger, Martin — 20th century German philosopher whose Introduction to Metaphysics begins with the question: "Why are there essents instead of nothing?" and whose concept of Dasein (Being in the world) is generally regarded as a rejection of Cartesian dualism.

Hypostatic — Theologically, constituting a distinct personal being or subsistence; metaphysically, pertaining to the substance or underlying essence of being as distinguished from specific attributes.

Id — In psychoanalytic theory, the unconscious component of the psyche that expresses instinctual needs and drives, especially sexual motivation; superego.

Idealism — Any philosophy or cultural movement founded on the theory that the essential nature (value) of reality lies in conscious perception that transcends phenomena. Philosophical [platonic] idealism is based on ideas, as opposed to materialism; moral idealism is concerned with ideology (e.g., "the ideal world"), as opposed to pragmatic realism.

Immutability principle — The maxim that the Whole may not be defined in terms of its constituents, that the physical properties and qualitative attributes of finite existents are not identifiable with Absolute Essence. This distinguishes Essentialism from "empirical-based" philosophies which posit ultimate reality as Being, Energy, Goodness, Quality, etc.

Individuation — In relational terms, the process whereby the negate becomes a unique being, separated from all others.

Infinitesimilitude — The quantitative state or variable whose mathematical limit is zero or the dimensional equivalent of existential nothingness.

Intellection, (effectual) — A term I have chosen to designate the delimiting or negational process by which the intellect converts Essence Value into the tangible constituents of existential reality. (See objectivization).

James, William — 19th century American psychologist and pragmatist who explored psychic experience. His principal philosophical work Varieties of Religious Experience was published in 1902.

Kant, Immanuel — 18th century German philosopher whose celebrated Critique of Pure Reason established an a priori basis for intuitive knowledge.

Metaphysics — The branch of philosophy that deals with reality beyond physical appearances.

Negate — Negated otherness; the "subjective" identity whose object is the being of the essent.

Negation — The primary self-denial or exclusionary mode of Essence whereby awareness and being are devolved as an existential dichotomy. Relationally, nihilation of otherness by the self to create the appearance of finite being.

Neitzsche, Friedrich — 19th century German philosopher whose epic characterizations of man's hopelessness foreshadowed the age of nihilism.

Nothingness — The physical void in actualized existence that individuates proprietary awareness [negate] and localizes finite being in space and time. In relational terms, the (spacio-temporal) discontinuity of perception that is responsible for cognizance of a differentiated world. Metaphysically, the antithesis of Essence whose negation is the primary cause of relational experience.

Not-other — "Self-sameness"; the logical proposition devised by Nicholas de Cusa that the "Divine essence" cannot be other than either a particular other or nothing. This theory established a metaphysical identity for the otherwise indefinable Absolute Source.

Objectivism — The materialistic doctrine or epistemology which holds that all observed phenomena have existence independently of the observer. The reality concept on which scientific methodology is based.

Objectivization — Intellection; the cognitive process by which organic sensibility converts pure Essence into the consciously perceived images of "otherness".

Occam's razor — A logical principle posited by the 14th Century theist William of Ockham which states that "entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily", meaning that the simplest of theories is preferred to the more complex.

Ontology — A theory dealing with the origin and dynamics of the physical world.

Other(ness) — The object of awareness that is cognitively negated as experienced being. In Hegel's ontology: Appearance.

Pantheism — A philosophy that equates God with the totality of being.

Pascal, Blaisι — Prodigious 17th century French mathematician and philosopher who proved that a vacuum exists, constructed the first digital calculator, and wrote a journal of philosophical concepts called the Pensιes.

Phenomenalism — The theory that physical objects are reducible to mental (perceptual) images and that all existence is phenomenal rather than substantive in nature. (Kant and Spencer affirmed the reality of things-in-themselves but denied their "knowability". Neils Bohr introduced "Complementarity" to this theory in 1927, proposing that scientific conclusions be limited to objective [statistical] data relating to the objects observed, excluding their properties.)

Pirsig, Robert M. — Contemporary American philosopher and author whose "Metaphysics of Quality" is the central theme of two semi-autobiographical novels: ZEN and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and LILA, An Inquiry into Morals.

Plotinus — Roman philosopher and founder of Neo-Platonism [270-204 B.C.] whose Six Enneads, published by Porphyry, posit reality as an emanation of Oneness by which sensation provides a direct, realistic perception of material things, while the contemplative mind seeks union with the One.

Primary cause — The "unmoved mover" (causa sui) or progenitor of all relations; in Essentialism, the negation or denial of Essence that results in nothingness (differentiation) and the creation of relational existence.

Proprioception — Neurologically, the reception of stimuli produced by nerve elements (interoceptors) within the muscles and joints that stabilize body movement. Reference in this thesis is to perception primarily involving the sense organs (exteroceptors).

Psyche — The human soul or spirit; proprietary awareness apart from its objectivized contents.

Sartre, Jean-Paul — 20th century French philosopher and dramatist whose voluminous Being and Nothingness expounded the cosmology of contemporary Existentialism on the theory that "existence precedes essence", a metaphysical rationale by which he sought to explain man's condemnation to Freedom.

Schopenhauer, Arthur — 19th century German philosopher whose principal work, The World as Will and Idea, expanded on Plato's "world of ideas" by showing how the teleological goals of Nature are unwittingly served by the Free Will of the individual.

Self (ness) — Not-other; the sensible "value-deprived" essent (negate) whose physical identity and proprietary awareness are the product of its own negated Essence.

Sensibility — Pre-intellectual value-awareness which is the primary, undifferentiated attribute of the negate from which the individuated Self emerges. In Essence, the absolute integration of esthesis (sensation) and quiddity (being).

Solipsism — The notion that Self is the only reality.

Soul — The core of conscious awareness which, in its purest state, is undifferentiated from Essence.

Specificity — The physical attributes of sensibility (sensibilia) as intellectualized in consciousness.

Subjectivity — The proprietary context in which all of reality is manifest (made sensible), including Self and Essent-value.

Teleology — The philosophical concept that purpose is intrinsic to natural process and the means to a supernatural end.

Thing-in-itself — In Kantian philosophy, the reality (noumenon) or unperceived essence of a thing that accounts for its being.

Value — The relational affinity for the wholeness of Essence which binds subject to object. Realized by its arousal of desire or passion, and ultimately reclaimed by Essence, Value is the metaphysical ground of existential reality and the teleological motivator of human experience.

Value-sense — The human cognitive capacity to realize essent-value through the intellection (negation) of objective beingness; the cause of the psycho-emotional affect referred to in this ontology as "value affirmation".

Value Complement — The assessment configuration of experienced values that is unique for each subject, conditionally affirming and ultimately defining the individual's valuistic equivalent.

Vitalism — The philosophy, generally credited to the 20th century Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, that views all life as a manifestation of the teleological principle, and sensibility as the true reality.

 

 

 Appendix:

 

GLOSSARY  OF  TERMS  AND  NAMES  AS  USED  IN  THIS  THESIS

 

A priori –  Generally, a term applied to judgments and principles whose validity is independent of all sense impressions.  (My usage tends more toward first and necessary to, as in primary cause.)

Absolute –  In a relational sense, the infinite cosmos in the totality of space and time.  In Essentialist terms, the primary, undifferentiated (uncreated) source.

Actualization – The mode of Essence in which negated otherness becomes the appearance of diversified being from a 'zero point' perspective.  Existence conceived as relational, oppositional, and valuistic within a space/time framework.

Anthropocentrism – A view of the world that regards human subjectivity as the central fact or final aim of the universe.  Reality  explained in terms of human values and experience.

Awareness – Proprietary or subjective sensibility, the purest form of which is distinct from self-consciousness, memory or experience.

Being – Any or all (negated) entities perceived as occupying time and space; otherness; beingness.

Beingness – The substantive property (quiddity) attributed by the intellect to objects of experience which makes them empirically credible as "real".

Cognizance  –  Consciousness of self and other as identities in time and space; intellectual or perceptual awareness.

Coincidence  –  In Cusan theory, the non-contradictory first principle [Essence] that represents absolute potentiality.

Cosmology  –  A branch of Metaphysics that deals with the universe and its relations as a structured or organized system; any hypothesis offered to explain such a system.

Creatio ex nihilo –  Literally, creation out of nothing; the logical fallacy that is averted by positing an uncreated negational Source.

Creation –  The formation of  existence and its finite constituents, traditionally conceived as a cosmic event occurring at a specific point in time but understood  by essentialists as a differential manifestation of the omnipresent negational mode of Essence.

Cusa, Nicholas of – 15th century Neo-Platonic philosopher and theologian whose writings influenced the development of Renaissance mathematics and science, and whose original thesis De li non-aliud—On the Not-other (1461)  postulated an "ineffable unity" to which  neither otherness nor multiplicity is opposed.

Delimitation – Cognitive or "secondary" negation; the process whereby the essent's value is differentiated by nothingness to produce conscious images of material phenomena; objectivization or "effectual intellection".

Descartes, Renι – 17th century French mathematician and philosopher whose widely lauded but logically flawed Cogito stated: "I think, therefore I am"..

Desire –  The valuistic attraction which draws the psyche (soul) to various manifestations of Essence; on a primitive level, lust or greed directed toward or attached to a particular entity or class of being.

Determinism – A doctrine of limited freedom based on the notion that every act has an antecedent cause and predictable result.

Dichotomy – Duality; dyad; the cosmos theorized as consisting of two mutually exclusive components or parts.

Differentiation – The mode of finite sensibility; primary separation of Essence into proprietary Awareness and universal Being, i.e., Self vs. Other.

Eckhart, Johannes – 14th century German gnostic and Christian theologian accused by the Church of "Pantheism and other errors" in 1326.

Ego –  The conscious, compulsive self which seeks control of its existence and the approval of others.

Empirical –  Based on observation or experimental evidence.

Epiphany –  In Christianity, an appearance or manifestation of God; a sudden spiritual insight, revelation, or "moment of clarity".

Epistemology –  The branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, theory, structure and limits of knowledge.

Essence –  The ultimate, unconditional, negational Source and/or "whatness" of reality; e.g., Absolute, Creator, God, Divine One, Supreme Identity, Quintessence; the perfect embodiment of Value which is the antithesis of metaphysical nothingness.

Essent –  One of two contingent value-deprived "essences" created by the primary negation of Essence from which existence arises; proprietary awareness [not-other] or its existential value object [other]; any created entity.

Essent-value –)The conditional or contingent value of  objectified being that is reclaimed in the experience of otherness.

Essential –  Generally, that which is necessary or indispensable; in Essentialism, the absolute entity or Value that encompasses both sensibility and beingness.

Essentialism – The philosophy that Essence is the necessary a priori source and ultimate end of all existence, and that realization of  its Value is man's reality.

Essential Value – The hypothetical "absolute value" of Essence which, metaphysically, equates to Essence Itself.

Existence – "Otherness"; the essent that is denied awareness and that represents "being" to the negate.   In a general sense,  the pluralistic physical world that is localized in time and space by intellectualized experience.

Existential –  Pertaining to the relational world, especially as it concerns individual sensibilia; experiential; provisional.

Existentialism –  The philosophy that Essence is the product [facticity] of becoming and that material existence is its cause.  Typically, the philosophy of science.

Finitude –  An order of magnitude less than infinite or absolute; the dimensional aspect of existence.

Freedom –  The ability to choose one's actions in the context of an indeterminate reality; the provisional mode of existence necessary for the autonomous realization of Value.

Gnosticism –  Belief in, and practice of, the intuitive acquisition of religious and philosophical truth.

God –  In traditional religion, the name applied to a supernatural being.  In Cusan logic, the divine "not other" that is not other than the (created) other.

Hegel, Georg Friedrich –  Early 19th century German cosmologist whose dialectical method of "thesis-antithesis-synthesis" shaped his major philosophical work, Phenomenology of Mind, published in 1806.

Heidegger, Martin – 20th century German philosopher whose Introduction to Metaphysics begins with the question: "Why are there essents instead of nothing?" and whose concept of Dasein (Being in the world) is generally regarded as a rejection of Cartesian dualism.

Hypostasis – Metaphysically, pertaining to the underlying unity of Essence and man; theologically, the divine incarnation attributed to Christ by which he became a "God-man". 

Id –  In psychoanalytic theory, the unconscious component of the psyche that expresses instinctual needs and drives, especially sexual motivation; superego.

Idealism – Any philosophy or cultural movement founded on the theory that the essential nature (value) of reality lies in conscious perception that transcends phenomena.  Philosophical [platonic] idealism is based on ideas, as opposed to materialism; moral idealism is concerned with ideology (e.g., "the ideal world"), as opposed to pragmatic realism.

Immutability principle – The maxim that the Whole may not be defined in terms of its constituents, that the physical properties and qualitative attributes of finite existents are not identifiable with Absolute Essence.  This distinguishes Essentialism from "empirical-based" philosophies which posit ultimate reality as Being, Energy, Goodness, Quality, etc.

Individuation –  In relational terms, the process whereby the negate becomes a unique being, separated from all others.

Infinitesimilitude – The quantitative state or variable whose mathematical limit is zero or the dimensional equivalent of  existential nothingness.

Intellection, (effectual) – A term I have chosen to designate the delimiting or negational  process by which the intellect converts Essence  Value into the tangible constituents of existential reality.  (See objectivization).

James, William – 19th century American psychologist and pragmatist who explored psychic experience.  His principal philosophical work Varieties of Religious Experience was  published in 1902.

Kant, Immanuel – 18th century German philosopher whose celebrated Critique of Pure Reason established an a priori basis for intuitive knowledge.

Metaphysics – The branch of philosophy that deals with reality beyond physical appearances.

Negate –  Negated otherness; the "subjective" identity whose object is the being of the essent. 

Negation –  The primary self-denial or exclusionary mode of Essence whereby awareness and being are devolved as an existential dichotomy.  Relationally, nihilation of otherness by the self to create the appearance of finite being.

Nietzsche, Friedrich – 19th century German philosopher whose epic characterizations of man's hopelessness foreshadowed the age of nihilism.

Nothingness –  The physical void in actualized existence that individuates  proprietary awareness [negate] and localizes finite being in space and time.  In relational terms, the (spacio-temporal) discontinuity of perception that is responsible for cognizance of a differentiated world.  Metaphysically, the antithesis of  Essence whose negation is the primary cause of relational experience.

Not-other – "Self-sameness"; the logical proposition devised by Nicholas de Cusa that the "Divine essence" cannot be other than either a particular other or nothing.  This theory established a metaphysical identity for the otherwise indefinable  Absolute Source.

Objectivism –  The materialistic doctrine or epistemology which holds that all observed phenomena have existence independently of the observer.  The reality concept on which scientific methodology is based.

Objectivization –  Intellection; the cognitive process by which organic sensibility converts pure Essence into the consciously perceived images of "otherness".

Occam's razor – A logical principle posited by the 14th Century theist William of Ockham which states that "entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily", meaning that the simplest of theories is preferred to the more complex.

Ontology – A theory dealing with the origin and dynamics of the physical world.

Other(ness) –  The object of awareness that is cognitively negated as experienced being.   In Hegel's ontology: Appearance.

Pantheism – A philosophy that equates God with the totality of being.

Pascal, Blaisι – Prodigious 17th century  French mathematician and philosopher who proved that a vacuum exists, constructed the first digital calculator, and wrote a journal of philosophical concepts called the Pensιes.

Phenomenalism – The theory that physical objects are reducible to mental (perceptual) images and that all existence is phenomenal rather than substantive in nature.  (Kant and Spencer affirmed the reality of things-in-themselves but denied their "knowability".  Neils Bohr introduced "Complementarity" to this theory in 1927, proposing that scientific conclusions be limited to objective [statistical] data relating to the objects observed, excluding their properties.)

Pirsig, Robert M. – Contemporary American philosopher and author whose "Metaphysics of Quality" is the central theme of two semi-autobiographical novels: ZEN and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and LILA, An Inquiry into Morals.

Plotinus –  Roman philosopher and founder of Neo-Platonism [270-204 B.C.] whose Six Enneads, published by Porphyry,  posit reality as an emanation of Oneness by which sensation provides a direct, realistic perception of material things, while the contemplative mind seeks union with the One. 

Primary cause – The "unmoved mover" (causa sui) or progenitor of all relations; in Essentialism, the negation or denial of Essence that results in nothingness (differentiation) and the creation of relational existence.

Proprioception –  Neurologically, the reception of stimuli produced by nerve elements (interoceptors) within the muscles and joints that stabilize body movement.  Reference in this thesis is to perception primarily involving the sense organs (exteroceptors).

Psyche –  The human soul or spirit; proprietary awareness apart from its objectivized contents.

Sartre, Jean-Paul –  20th century French philosopher and dramatist whose voluminous Being and Nothingness expounded the cosmology of contemporary Existentialism on the theory that "existence precedes essence", a metaphysical rationale by which he sought to explain man's condemnation to Freedom.

Schopenhauer, Arthur –  19th century German philosopher whose principal work, The World as Will and Idea, expanded on Plato's "world of ideas" by showing how the teleological goals of Nature are unwittingly served by the Free Will of the individual.

Self (ness) –  Not-other; the sensible "value-deprived" essent  (negate) whose physical identity and proprietary awareness are the product of its own negated Essence.

Sensibility –  Pre-intellectual value-awareness which is the primary, undifferentiated  attribute of the negate from which the individuated Self emerges.   In Essence, the absolute integration of esthesis (sensation) and quiddity (being).

Solipsism –  The notion that Self is the only reality.

Soul –  The core of conscious awareness which, in its purest state, is undifferentiated from Essence.

Specificity – The  physical attributes of sensibility (sensibilia) as intellectualized in  consciousness.

Subjectivity –  The proprietary context in which all of reality is manifest (made sensible), including Self and Essent-value.

Teleology –  The philosophical concept that purpose is intrinsic to natural process and the means to a supernatural end.

Thing-in-itself –  In Kantian philosophy, the reality (noumenon) or unperceived essence of a thing that accounts for its being.

Value –  The relational affinity for the wholeness of  Essence which binds subject to object.  Realized by its arousal of desire or passion, and ultimately reclaimed by Essence, Value is the metaphysical ground of existential reality and the teleological motivator of human experience.

Value-sense –  The human cognitive capacity to realize essent-value through the intellection (negation)  of  objective beingness; the cause of the psycho-emotional affect referred to in this ontology as "value affirmation".

Value Complement –  The assessment configuration of experienced values that is unique for each subject, conditionally affirming and ultimately defining the individual's valuistic equivalent.

Vitalism –  The philosophy, generally credited to the 20th century Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin, that views all life as a manifestation of the teleological principle, and sensibility as the true reality.

 

                       

 

About the Author...

'Hampday' is an Internet acronym for Hamilton ('Ham') Priday.  Although my academic background was in science and the arts, metaphysics has been a primary interest ever since taking logic and philosophy courses as electives for a B.S. in Biology/Chemistry.  On completing state-side service in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the Korean campaign, I was privileged to tour Europe and the Middle East with my family and to study music theory (another life-long passion) at a local conservatory under the GI Bill, putting in a stint as announcer at a classical music station to cover pocket expenses.  Shortly thereafter, while launching a 30-year career in technical writing and marketing communications, I wedded a young lab technician I'd met in Center City and moved to the suburbs where we raised a son and took up permanent residence.  Having retired from the business world in 2002, I'm now free to devote more time to philosophical issues.  This thesis is an abbreviated version of a book-length manuscript that evolved over half a century but was never published.  Recently I've reworked these concepts into a small paperback for the general audience which is also available in E-Book format. (If this piques your interest, just click http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-0041654049/Seizing-The-Essence.aspx and the catalog page for 'Seizing the Essence' should appear.}  Meantime, The Essentialist's Forum continues to serve as a conduit for discussing the basic concepts of Essentialism.  Ideas are what this forum is about, so if you have something to contribute, by all means don't hesitate to use the reply form on the Forum Page.   I promise to respond in turn to all serious replies.

 

 


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